Five of the most memorable comebacks in MLS Cup Playoffs history

FC Dallas don’t need to look far to draw inspiration for what would be a massive comeback in their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Seattle Sounders.

They just have to remember one year back.

FCD, who lost 3-0 at Seattle in Leg 1 of their series on Sunday, pulled off quite the comeback against the Sounders in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinal.

After falling 2-1 at Seattle in the series opener, Dallas needed a one-goal win against the Sounders in Leg 2 at Toyota Stadium to have any shot of moving on. For a long time, it didn’t look like they’d even hit the back of the net. It took until the 84th minute for Tesho Akindele to put FCD up 1-0, a strike that moved Dallas ahead in the series on away goals.

All FCD had to do was hang on for the final six minutes plus stoppage, but that proved too tall of an order. Chad Marshall headed home a corner to move Seattle back in front on aggregate in the 90th minute, leaving FCD with just three minutes of stoppage time to tie up the series.

Somehow, they pulled it off. Dallas got their goal in the first minute of stoppage when Walker Zimmerman headed home a Blas Perez effort to force extra time. Dallas went on to win in penalties before dropping the Western Conference Final to eventual MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers.

If Dallas, who will be without their best attacker in the injured Mauro Diaz, can topple the Sounders again on Sunday, it’d go down in as one of the top playoff comebacks in MLS history.

That’s a pretty unlikely scenario, however. For now, we’ll have to make do with this list of five of the most memorable comebacks in MLS Cup Playoffs lore:

San Jose Earthquakes 5, LA Galaxy 4 – 2003 Western Conference Semifinals

Any discussion about the greatest comebacks in MLS Cup Playoff history has to start with San Jose’s epic series win against their California rival LA Galaxy in 2003.

Carlos Ruiz and Sasha Victorine scored in the first leg to give the Galaxy a nice cushion heading into Leg 2 in San Jose. LA built on their lead early in the series decider, tacking on two more goals in the first 13 minutes to take what looked like an insurmountable 4-0 lead.

Then the Quakes started chipping away. Jeff Agoos scored on a set piece in the 21st, Landon Donovan bagged another just before halftime and Jamil Walker added a third early in the second half. It looked like the Galaxy would hang on, but Chris Roner scored in the 90th minute to make it 4-4 on aggregate and send the match into extra time.

Rodrigo Faria made quick work of the Galaxy in extra time, running onto a Donovan ball and hitting the back of the net in the 96th minute to give the Quakes – who were down to 10 men after using all their subs and seeing Agoos go off injured – a golden goal win.

D.C. United 3, LA Galaxy 2 – MLS Cup 1996

We haven’t had too many MLS Cups wilder than the inaugural edition of the league’s title game. D.C. United and the LA Galaxy met in a driving rainstorm caused by nearby Hurricane Lili at the old Foxboro Stadium, with the Galaxy racing out to an early lead when Eduardo Hurtado scored in the fourth minute. Chris Armas doubled LA’s advantage shortly after halftime, making it 2-0 in the 56th.

Things looked bleak for D.C. heading into the final 20 minutes, but United pulled off a drastic turnaround to win the first title in league history. Tony Sanneh pulled one back in the 72nd, then fellow substitute Shawn Medved bagged a dramatic equalizer in the 81st to push the match to extra time.

Longtime US international center back Eddie Pope took it from there, heading home a corner kick to score a golden goal in the fourth minute of extra time to give United the first of their four championships.

New England Revolution 3, MetroStars 2 – 2005 Eastern Conference Semifinal

The top seed in the East and the second-highest scoring team in the league, New England were relatively comfortable heading into Leg 2 – even after falling 1-0 at New York in the first leg.

That changed in the 59th minute at Gillette Stadium, when MetroStars midfielder Youri Djorkaeff broke through on the break to put New England in a 2-0 hole.

The Revs needed a big spark, and they got one in substitute midfielder Jose Cancela. The playmaker led New England’s comeback, scoring the Revs’ first in the 68th minute to make it 2-1 and assisting on Pat Noonan’s equalizer in the 73rd before Khano Smith scored the winner 10 minutes later to complete the furious turnaround.

Kansas City Wizards 3, San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 2004 Western Conference Semifinals

Less than a year after their wild comeback against the Galaxy, San Jose ended up on the wrong side of a dramatic turnaround – this time at the hands of Kansas City.

The Quakes took care of business in Leg 1, beating Kansas City 2-0 at Spartan Stadium to take a solid – if not insurmountable – lead into the series decider.

The advantage wasn’t enough. Khari Stephenson pulled one back for the Wizards in the 26th minute and a Brian Ching own goal in the 48th brought things all square. The series looked like it’d be decided in extra time, but Jack Jewsbury had other ideas, rifling a shot off the post and in in the 92nd minute to give Kansas City – who went on to lose a nail-biter to D.C. at MLS Cup – the 3-2 series win.

Colorado Rapids 4 (5), FC Dallas 4 (4) – 2006 Western Conference Semifinals

One year after dispatching FC Dallas after penalties in the 2005 West semis, the Rapids pulled the trick again in 2006, using a huge comeback to bounce favored FCD out of the playoffs.

Dallas were in a great position heading into Leg 2, having gotten goals from Carlos Ruiz and Abe Thompson to beat the Rapids 2-1 in Denver. Despite going down a man when defender Chris Gbandi was ejected in the 29th minute, Dallas took a tighter grip on the series just after halftime, when Ruiz scored to give FCD a 3-1 aggregate advantage.

Colorado clawed their way back from the two-goal deficit, getting a pair of goals from Nicolas Hernandez – with the equalizer coming in the 83rd – to force extra time. Clarence Goodson put FCD back ahead in the second minute of extra time, but Clint Mathis scored to pull the Rapids even at 3-3 in the 114th minute. The sides were all square through the first five rounds of the penalty shootout, but Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala had his sixth-round attempt saved and couldn’t keep out Pablo Mastroeni’s spot kick, giving the Rapids the win.

Some fireworks followed after the match, too, as Sala set off a brawl by punching some of the celebrating Rapids players.