NEW YORK — Thursday night, the San Jose Earthquakes came roaring back from a 1-0 Eastern Conference semifinal first leg deficit to take a 3-1 result on the road against the New York Red Bulls and advance to the conference championship game.
Since 2003 – when the current home-and-home conference semifinal format was introduced – there have been 20 teams who, like San Jose, trailed after the first leg. Of those teams, 10, including San Jose, advanced to the conference final.
You read that right: Fifty percent of teams who find themselves trailing after the first game of the series end up advancing to the next round.
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But if you think that San Jose’s feat was commonplace, think again. Before Thursday night, eight of the 10 times that a first leg deficit was overturned, it was the team who was at home in the second leg who overturned it.
There have been seven teams in MLS history who have won the first leg of a conference semifinal on the road. The Quakes became just the second team to overcome that setback in the second leg.
That means that Seattle Sounders fans can stop fidgeting nervously. This postseason marked the first time since 2006 that there was a victor in all four opening encounters of the conference semifinal. Seattle and San Jose were the two teams who failed to win at home, with the Sounders also dropping a 1-0 result against the LA Galaxy.
On Thursday morning, that would have made them the prohibitive underdogs. But as the Quakes showed last night, that’s why the games are played.
Real Salt Lake fell 2-1 to FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. The Columbus Crew fell 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City. Who cares? All six teams that are left in the playoffs have a 50 percent chance of going through. Game on.