Road teams face daunting task in MLS Cup Playoffs

Crew, Rapids open postseason slate Thursday on ESPN2

The Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids will kick off the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes). Over the three days that follow, the New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will also take to the road to kick off their postseason campaigns.

All four traveling sides face a daunting task. MLS teams have a combined historical road record 50-115-24 in the playoffs.

Even the quickest of looks reveals some noticeable obstacles. For example, the Crew haven’t won a postseason opener on the road in three tries since 2002.

The Galaxy journey north to take on the Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), who have the largest home support in MLS, and one of the loudest. RSL, meanwhile, have never won at Pizza Hut Park, where they will face FC Dallas on Saturday. New York were blown out 4-0 by the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium earlier this year.

Traveling fans don’t need to reach for the panic button yet, though. There is hope. Especially for Crew fans. It turns out Colorado are the only active team in MLS with a losing record at home during the playoffs.

LA are currently on a four-game road unbeaten streak in the playoffs, stretching back five years. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has said that LA’s 4-0 win in Seattle on May 8 “means nothing,” but such a decisive win at Qwest Field is surely a better omen than a reverse result.

Real Salt Lake are the only other team riding a road unbeaten streak in the postseason. That’s because they have never lost on the road in the playoffs. Better still for the reigning champs: The Hoops have an unremarkable 7-6-2 record at home during postseason play.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, have the second-highest road goal-scoring average in postseason play at 1.19 goals per game. They're going to need some goals against the Quakes, who are riding a four-game home unbeaten streak in the playoff that stretches back to 2003.

So what about that matchup between the Crew and Rapids on Thursday? 

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