CARSON, Calif. – The road to get to MLS Cup 2011 at the Home Depot Center goes through the Home Depot Center.
The MLS title game on Nov. 20 will be held at the HDC, but for any club hoping to advance to the final out of the Western Conference, it will more than likely mean overcoming the No. 1-seeded LA Galaxy and their home-field advantage at the HDC, where they registered a spotless 12-0-5 record. They were the only MLS team to go undefeated at home in league play in 2011.
“It’s a good sign going into the playoffs when you have home-field advantage,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said after LA's win SuperClasico over Chivas USA on Sunday. “This is a difficult place for teams to come in and play and that record kind of shows that. We’ve made this our fortress.”
Of the 51 available points at home, the Galaxy nabbed 41, which proved a boon for the club in its pursuit and ultimate conquest of the Supporters’ Shield. With their 27 road points, the club has pieced together one of the strongest regular seasons in MLS history.
“We’ve shown that we’re a tough team to beat here and we have a great road record, too, and that contributed to why we won the Supporters’ Shield,” Dunivant said.
Last season, the Galaxy clinched the Shield on the season’s final day, but the Home Depot Center was not quite as imposing then as it is now. LA dropped four regular season home games and five in all competitions.
This season, not only did the Galaxy claim a 12-0-5 record in regular season play, but they went a perfect 3-0-0 in CONCACAF Champions League matches they hosted.
“We’ve always said that we want to make our stadium somewhere to come that’s hard to win and I think we’ve done that,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “We’ve worked hard on that and it’s important that we do that at home. The fans obviously are behind us and we’ve got the support of them. It’s important that we perform at our own stadium.”
The Galaxy try and follow the same game plan nearly every game – score first and suffocate opponents with their stingy defense. It worked nearly to perfection at home. They allowed the first goal in only four of their home games and allowed only nine goals at home in all competitions. Only Toronto FC scored more than one goal against the Galaxy at the HDC.
“At home, we’re very difficult to break down and beat,” Dunivant said. “We’re good at getting the first goal here. And that’s key.”
If the Galaxy are the last team standing on Nov. 20, they will have captured MLS Cup by playing three of their four postseason matches in their friendly confines, including MLS Cup.
“Look how other teams are going to look at it,” LA forward Chad Barrett said. “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.”