Most teams standing short of the playoff line deep into summer tend to miss out on the postseason. But every so often, a club rallies late from a miserable table position to make something special of the year.
Though they'll be hard-pressed to match the supreme salvage jobs from the last two years, the Seattle Sounders are now in the midst of their third straight major midseason U-turn. Boosted by Wayne Rooney's influence and a brand-new stadium, D.C. United have also suddenly taken flight toward playoff air after spending much of the season's first half near the bottom of the Eastern barrel. Many still assume defending champs Toronto FC will soon join them on the rise, though the urgency is increasing at BMO Field.
In honor of their playoff drives, we picked out the teams with the best finishing kicks in league history. As the league has become increasingly more competitive, it's little wonder that all five season rescues below occurred during the last 10 years.
5) The 2009 LA Galaxy
HIGHLIGHTS: Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy | MLS Cup 2009
Coming off three seasons that ended prior to the postseason, the LA Galaxy opened the year winless in five and managed but one victory in their first 11 games. On June 20, a Cali Clasico loss at San Jose dropped them to 2-3-9 and out of the playoff zone. Faced with the prospect of another lost campaign, the Galaxy got downright defensive.
Bruce Arena's boys started the big turnaround with three straight 1-0 victories, followed by another shutout win. They would eventually ring up 10 clean sheets while going 10-3-3 down the stretch to claim the West and fall one point shy of the Supporters' Shield. The Galaxy kept winning all the way to MLS Cup, where they fell on spot kicks to Real Salt Lake.
4) The 2014 New England Revolution
Jermaine Jones, right, talks to New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft after a 3-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC in the second leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals | USA Today Sports Images
Of all the season resurrections on this list, none began later than the one achieved by the New England Revolution four years ago. Come August, the Revs were 8-12-2 and looking up at the last playoff slot in the East. Most of the damage was done by a eight-game summer losing slide, which in the end only heightened the drama for Jermaine Jones' arrival.
New England won on August 23, and the US national team midfielder officially joined up the next day. The Revs would take five in a row on the way to a 9-1-2 closing gallop that earned them second place in the East. Jones & Co. would then roll through the conference playoffs before falling in extra time to the MLS Cup-hosting Galaxy.
3) The 2017 Seattle Sounders
Clint Dempsey celebrates his goal in the Sounders' 3-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the 2017 Western Conference final. | USA Today Sports Images
Here's one from the instant nostalgia file. You may remember how the Sounders suffered a helluva title hangover, opening the season with just two wins in 11 games to sit next to bottom. Though they were up to eighth place in the West by the end of June, they still looked like a long shot to get back to MLS Cup.
However, Seattle then won six of seven as the highlight of a 13-game unbeaten streak. The Sounders missed out on the Western Confrence regular-season crown by a narrow margin after winning three of four to finish the season, but their roll continued into the postseason. The Emerald City crew strolled through the conference playoffs without leaking a goal before dropping their MLS Cup rematch with Toronto.
2) The 2012 LA Galaxy
Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane celebrate a goal during the Galaxy's 3-1 2012 Western Conference semifinal second leg victory over the San Jose Earthquakes | USA Today Sports Images
Another club to suffer a post-title swoon was the 2012 StubHub bunch. On July 4, they fell at home to Philadelphia, dropping their record to 6-10-2. They were out of sorts, out of the playoff zone and searching for answers.
The Galaxy would pull it together for a 10-2-4 run that included five road wins and 23 goals from the star trio of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. A couple of playoff comebacks later and they were back at MLS Cup to score a championship repeat .
1) The 2016 Seattle Sounders
EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS | TFC 0(4)-0(5) Sounders | 4-minute Highlights
Through 20 games, the Sounders were in ninth place, one point out of the basement with the worst goal differential in the West, and 11 points adrift from playoff waters. Three days later, they signed Nicolas Lodeiro and the rest is a part of Seattle history.
With their new playmaker notching four goals and eight helpers in his first dozen games in rave green, Seattle rode an 8-2-4 run up to finish fourth in a strong Western Conference. That was just the appetizer, though, as the Sounders shoved aside Sporting Kansas City, Supporters' Shield winners FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids on the road to raising their first MLS Cup with a penalty shootout triumph in Toronto.