Home-field advantage can be an over-used misnomer when it comes to American sports playoffs. It always seems a bit odd to hear a player say his team has taken away home-field advantage after earning a road split in the first two games. After all, how often does that team win all three of its home games?
When it comes to MLS and a two-game series, home-field advantage is even more questionable, given that each team is scheduled to get 90 minutes at home over the course of the series. But for the Dynamo, playing at Robertson Stadium has been an advantage throughout their six seasons and could be once again in this postseason.
One might not have expected that earlier this year, when the Dynamo lost 2-0 to the Columbus Crew at home to fall to 6-8-5 in their last 19 home games. That mark dated back more than one calendar year, to a frustrating May 5, 2010 loss to in-state rival FC Dallas, that club’s first ever win in Houston.
Something turned around with the July heat, however, and the Dynamo went 6-0-2 at home the rest of the season on their way to the second-best home record in the league (10-3-4, 2.0 pts per game) and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference. That success, the team’s 5-1 all-time home record in postseason play, and of course the potential for overtime and penalty kicks in front of a home crowd, made head coach Dominic Kinnear happy to have the second game of the semifinal series in Houston.
“If you had a choice, you’d want to play [at home] second,” Kinnear said Wednesday. “I’m just happy we have a home game. … The home games in the playoffs in Houston are pretty special. It doesn’t work out every time, but I think having the home game for the second game is something you feel comfortable with.”
The Dynamo have been plenty comfortable at Robertson over the years, posting a league-best 50 regular-season victories and averaging a league-high 1.89 points per game at home since 2006. Only Real Salt Lake even comes close to Houston’s home success since 2006, and the Dynamo have been almost overwhelming at home since July.
In their last eight home games, the Dynamo have scored multiple goals six times to finish the season tied for first in MLS in home scoring with the Seattle Sounders at 32 goals scored for an average of 1.88 goals per game. Since July 30 (a 3-1 Houston win over Seattle) the Dynamo have outscored opponents 17-7 (including a 3-0 demolition of Mexican club Monterrey) in seven matches.
The offense has been about as hot as the weather – fitting, since Houston is 8-1-4 at home in temperatures above 80 degrees – but will come up against a very tough defensive opponent in Philadelphia.
The only thing missing from the Dynamo’s home run has been a shutout – Houston has not kept a clean sheet in league play since July 9 – but the offense, which has come from a variety of sources, has more than made up for it. That has historically been the case in the playoffs, too, where the Dynamo have won dramatic semifinal second legs on three different occasions, something they will hope for again next Thursday night.