CARSON, Calif. -- Sean Franklin picked the perfect time for his first career Major League Soccer postseason goal.
The Los Angeles defender scored from about 30 yards in the 48th minute to give the Galaxy a 1-0 win in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinal series on Sunday night at the Stubhub Center.
More important than the win, however, is the one-goal advantage the Galaxy will take to Salt Lake City when the series concludes Thursday. The team with the most goals after the two games will advance to the conference championship against Portland or Seattle.
The Galaxy is seeking to become the first team in MLS history to win three consecutive championships.
Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy battled to a scoreless draw in the first half despite plentiful scoring opportunities for Los Angeles.
A scramble in front of Real Salt Lake's net led to Franklin's goal, which came in the 48th minute. Robbie Keane kicked the ball out of the box, where Franklin was waiting for it. Left unmarked, he kicked it toward the right side of the goal.
"Once I opened my eyes, I saw the ball in the back of the net," Franklin said. "I had the time and the space. I just tried to keep it on frame and it went in. It was a good shot and I'm just glad it went in."
Galaxy forwards Landon Donovan and Keane, who combined for 26 goals during the regular season, were connecting with each other while keeping Real Salt Lake on its heels.
Los Angeles was simply unable to finish, thanks in part to the quick legwork of defender Tony Beltran, who continuously got into position to block, deflect or intercept passes and shots headed for the goal.
Meanwhile, Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez helped frustrate Real Salt Lake star Alvaro Saborio, who entered the game with a team-high 12 goals but didn't get many touches.
"We talked about how we didn't want to give up any goals, and everyone was flying in front of the ball," Franklin added. "We did a good job of shutting down their players and that's what we're going to need heading into the second leg."
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis was frustrated with the outcome, primarily because he felt his team should have done better. Though he refused to name names, he said that some of his top players need to step up in Thursday's game.
"We gave the ball away so cheaply, so many times, in very dangerous spots," he said. "We can talk all we want about how we want to do better defensively but we wouldn't have to defend as much if we were much better with the ball.
"We had a lot of numbers behind the ball, we just didn't put any pressure to it. We had a lack of commitment to get any pressure behind it. The passes were there and the options were there. We were just missing simple passes."
The Galaxy came within inches of padding their goal total when a shot by Keane in the 85th minute went wide.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Ramando also made a sliding stop of a shot by Donovan in the 88th minute. A shot by Juninho in the 90th minute, off a pass from Keane, went over the net.
"Our team played well," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "We certainly had chances to get a few more goals. A couple of players were a little bit off tonight."
The Galaxy will now have to make sure that the lack of insurance goals doesn't help Real Salt Lake in the next game.
"We know it's going to cold and there is altitude," Franklin said. "They're going to come out and press us early and we have to be smart about that. We can't give up any goals early."
NOTES: Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy are meeting for the third time in the MLS playoffs. Two seasons ago, the Galaxy beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 in the Western Conference championship. In 2009, Real Salt Lake edged the Galaxy 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the MLS championship. ... Joao Plata Cotera, who leads Real Salt Lake with eight assists this season, missed the game with a strained right hamstring. ... The Galaxy won two of three games with Real Salt Lake during the regular season. Keane (16 goals, 10 assists) had a hat trick in the only game that was played at the Stubhub Center, a 4-2 Galaxy victory on Aug. 17. The teams split the two games in Salt Lake City. ... Donovan went into the game as MLS' leading postseason scorer with 22 goals in 34 games. He is also in fourth place on the career list for MLS postseason assists with 12.