So does hosting the first or second leg of a playoff series really matter?
We polled the 10 managers who have seen their respective teams through to the 2012 MLS playoffs and it turns out there's a distinct preference:
MANAGERS PREFERRING 1ST LEG AT HOME: 0
MANAGERS PREFERRING 2ND LEG AT HOME: 6 (NY, HOU, CHI, VAN, SKC, SJ)
Hans Backe (New York Red Bulls): "Normally, we've been strong at home, lost two games [all season], so it's a big advantage, I must say."
Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo): "In my opinion I think it's always better to have the second game at home. I feel more comfortable having the second game at home. I think in both cases you know exactly what you need to do. I think having the fans on your side for the last 90 minutes is a plus."
Frank Klopas (Chicago Fire): "Especially if you have to play a mini-game, for sure, you'd rather have it at home than on the road. At this point, I think the teams that are in it are capable of winning at home and on the road, so they're all going to be difficult matches. Would you rather have it at home? For sure."
Martin Rennie (Vancouver Whitecaps): “Most of the time if you had the choice, it’s good to play at home second I think. But sometimes it’s actually good to play at home first because if you can get a win in the first game, sometimes you can protect that lead a little bit more easily whereas if you come home and you’re maybe losing the game 1-0, you have to chase the game and that’s when you can get caught out on the break, so it works both ways.”
Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City): "I like the way the playoffs are set up. The only thing I'd say is that I'd rather have the game on Saturday at home, rather than Wednesday. But that doesn't really matter. Our stands are going to be full anyway. I like it the way it is, because the playoff at the end if it's tied — the mini-game — you get that at home."
Frank Yallop (San Jose Earthquakes): "I think coming home, knowing what you’ve got to do, is a slight advantage. … You’ve got the extra time and the penalty kicks if you need it. There’s not a ton of [home-field] advantage in a two-legged affair, to be honest. You’d like to think that hopefully we can get through the rounds and play like we’ve played all year. But anything can happen in the playoffs."
IT DOESN'T MATTER: 4 (LA, RSL, DC, SEA)
Bruce Arena (LA Galaxy): “I think if you're playing home and away, it doesn't matter, to be honest with you. That extra 30 minutes maybe never comes into play. Who knows? … I think as long as it's home and home, no one really has an advantage.”
Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake): "I have said it all along, I have no preference. No matter what happens, you are going to have to find a way to get some kind of a result on the road, and win at home. It doesn't matter if the win at home comes first or after you've already played a game."
Ben Olsen (D.C. United): "I’m not too concerned about that. I just want to be in that leg. Nobody wants to be in that [Knockout Round] game. The goal is, I’m sure on everybody’s part that’s able to get there, is to be in that top three."
Sigi Schmid (Seattle Sounders): "Once we're in the playoffs, it's a home game and an away game. We got to win our home game and we got to get a result on the away game, and we advance. It doesn't matter whether that game is first or whether that game is second."