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Galaxy on the brink of historic first at home
by Ridge Mahoney, November 18th, 2011 2:31AM
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TAGS:  los angeles galaxy, mls


[MLS CUP COUNTDOWN] Besides the Galaxy this year, only two teams have rolled through the regular season unbeaten at home, and neither captured MLS Cup. Los Angeles, in fact, is the only one of the three teams to reach MLS Cup after going unbeaten at home. San Jose stumbled in 2005, and last year, Real Salt Lake tumbled to eventual MLS Cup finalist FC Dallas.

The Galaxy played spoiler in 2005. It finished ninth among the 12 teams in total points, yet snuck into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed, and in the conference semifinals knocked off San Jose, which had posted a 9-0-7 record at Spartan Stadium. A 3-1 win in the first leg at Home Depot Center catapulted Los Angeles to a 4-2 aggregate win.

Six years after being on the losing end, Houston coach Dominic Kinnear can turn the tables if his team can spring an upset. “That was a great season, except for how it ended,” said Kinnear, who had taken over as San Jose head coach the year before when Frank Yallop resigned to take over the Canadian national team. “We really had a good team that year [San Jose also won the Supporters’ Shield with an 18-4-10 record] but we knew playing our biggest rivals in the playoffs was going to be tough.

“We were losing in the first leg in LA, 2-1, which would have been all right, because we’d be pretty confident of turning around a one-goal deficit at our place. But that third goal really kind of killed us.”

Ex-Quake Landon Donovan’s strike in the 83rd minute turned out to be the winning goal of the two-game series.

RSL’s near-invincibility at Rio Tinto Stadium last season propelled it to an 11-0-4 record, the highest home percentage (.867) in league history. But like the Quakes in 2005, RSL couldn’t get out of the first round and stumbled to a 1-1 tie at home. Having lost the first leg in Dallas, 2-1, despite its remarkable season while defending its 2009 title, RSL went out.

“I think we used it as motivation for this [2011] season in the league and Concacaf as well,” says RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman, “but that really stung. As bad as it was for us, the players and the coaches and the organization, we were disappointed for our fans. They had been through a lot with us and they kind of expected we’d at least get back to the final. So did we, I guess.”

Both San Jose and RSL stumbled in the first round of the playoffs while failing to win the home leg. In its two home playoff games this season, the Galaxy beat New York, 2-1, and thumped RSL, 3-1. That’s 14 wins and five ties in 19 home games and sets up the Galaxy to finish off its season at home in front of a rowdy, sellout crowd in MLS Cup 2011.

Prior to the playoffs, forward Chad Barrett said of the HDC record, “Look how other teams are going to look at it; 12-0-5 and we have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Come and play us here. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

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