CenterLine Report: Bring on the back-to-back
Not quite as rare as a lunar eclipse, though it certainly may seem that way, is the MLS regular season doubleheader. Two teams battling over successive weekends in what coaches and players call a “toss-up” as to whether facing the same opponent twice in a row bestows any benefit. Does familiarity breed contempt? In the case of the San Jose Earthquakes, no love is lost in these back-to-back match-ups.
Since the inaugural season of MLS, San Jose has played successive games against the same opponent on 19 occurrences. Not surprisingly, only four of those two game sets came in the last 10 years, concurrent with the growth of MLS from as little as 10 teams to the 19 team league of today. Also not a shock is that five of those double-dippers came against the LA Galaxy – San Jose loves facing LA!
Sunday’s contest against the Portland Timbers will complete the 20th back-to-back regular season series in Earthquakes history, and curiously enough, previous results show that good things should be in store for the Blue and Black. Of the 19 pairs of results already in the book, San Jose suffered losses in 11. Only twice did the team suffer a second successive defeat when playing the follow-up game at home. Seems the Quakes are genetically disposed to making a comeback.
To break down the numbers a bit more, it is instructive to look at the order of the match-ups in terms of home and away. Of the 11 first leg losses, eight came on the road. In those 8 second leg matches, San Jose posted a respectable 4-2-2 record. In three-quarters of the games, the Earthquakes added points to their season haul. Not too shabby.
The match last Sunday at JELD-WEN Field was physical and intense – much like one would expect from the postseason or a knockout style tournament. Perhaps the numbers from the MLS playoffs and other competitions show a similar bounce-back ability from ever-resilient San Jose.
Since making the MLS Cup playoffs in their first season in 1996, the Earthquakes have played 14 sets of two (sometimes three) consecutive matches against a familiar foe. In the MLS playoffs, where two-leg series are commonplace, it has happened nine times. With rare U.S. Open Cup games meshing into the regular season schedule, it has occurred twice. And, very relevant to this year, San Jose has 3 times played home and away series in what is now referred to as the CONCACAF Champions League.
In those 14 pairs of match-ups, San Jose dropped the first leg a disappointing nine times. But just like in their regular season show of resiliency, the Earthquakes suffered only one loss in those nine follow-up matches. Playing at home for 5 of those second legs, San Jose collected four wins and a draw. Advantage, Earthquakes!
How does it all add up? In total the Earthquakes have played 33 sets of back-to-back games, and only twice did they lose the second leg after dropping the first leg on the road. Do the 2013 Quakes hold that same fire in the belly to right the wrong of last weekend in Portland when the Timbers come to Buck Shaw Stadium this Sunday evening? History is on their side, just as “Never Say Die” is in their collective DNA.