TORONTO â€” Teams generally don’t travel well in Major League Soccer, a trend Toronto FC hopes to capitalize on during its current three-game homestand.
The Houston Dynamo, Friday’s visitors to BMO Field, have outscored their opposition 13-5 at home where they are 4-0-1 but have been outscored 6-2 on the road where they are 0-2-0.
The Chicago Fire, beaten 3-1 last week in Toronto, have collected 10 points at home but only one on the road. East-leading Orlando, which comes here next week, is 4-0-0 at home and 1-1-0 elsewhere.
Going into Week 9 play, Eastern Conference teams were a combined 22-5-12 at home and 7-22-11 on the road. It was the same story in the West where teams were 22-9-9 at home and 7-22-10 away.
That means MLS teams have won on the road just 17.7 per cent of the time this season compared to 55.7 per cent at home.
Last years, MLS teams went 64-169-107 away from home winning just 18.8 per cent of the time.
Compare that to Italy’s Serie A where teams are a combined 103-158-69 away from home this season, for a road win rate of 31.2 per cent. In England’s Premier League, prior to play Thursday, teams were 92-167-74 away from home for a win rate of 27.6 per cent.
For Toronto coach Greg Vanney, the poor rate of success on the MLS road is due to several reasons.
Geography for one, given the size of North America compared to England or Italy. Long journeys aren’t beneficial in an endurance sport, specially when flying commercial rather than by charter.
Then there’s the parity of MLS.
“The competitive differences between our teams is not big, that’s the way the league is set up,” Vanney said. “So when you take travel, recovery and all those things and that weighs just a little bit against the team that travels, it tilts the bar just slightly. So it can make it challenging.
“I’ve said in the past, there’s just such small margins sometimes between one team and the next and one game and the next, that travel can be one of those margins.”
Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who has played in England, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, agrees but notes that top European teams are expected to win regardless of venue.
“For the rest of those teams, points on the road are hard to come by and very valuable,” he said. “Obviously with the structure of MLS and the make-up of things, there’s not as much inbetween the top and the bottom.
“As a result you see that points on the road are valuable and in many case hard to come by.”
He believes the gap between top and bottom is beginning to widen in MLS, a trend he says is good for the league.
“In order to have a real league, you have to have teams that are the best and know they are the best and ultimately play week in and week out to win regardless of who they’re playing against or where.”
Toronto fullback Justin Morrow, in his eighth MLS season, points to the diverse stadium atmospheres around the league as one contributing factor to home success.
“Each club has its own unique atmosphere and that brings a lot of energy to the home team. Teams in our league are especially playing with more confidence, with more energy at home and I think that’s what leads to results.”
Toronto (2-1-4) has run counter to the numbers in the early part of this season. It has won five points at home (where its record is 1-0-2) and five on the road (1-1-2).
Friday night’s game is the first of five in 15 days for Toronto, a stretch that includes trips to Seattle and Columbus as well as home contests against East-leading Orlando and expansion Minnesota.
The good news is the trainer’s room is emptying out. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin (quad) and defender Jason Hernandez (calf) are back training and defender Chris Mavinga (quad) is expected to return to full training early next week.
Veteran centre back Drew Moor had a procedure Wednesday in Boston to correct an regular heartbeat and should be back training in a week of so.
Houston (4-2-1) boasts the league’s leading scorer in Mexico’s Erick (Cubo) Torres with seven goals. Hondurans Alberth Elis, known for his panther goal celebration, and Romell Quoito have three apiece.
“The two Hondurans are very good players,” said Bradley, whose U.S. team played Honduras in March in World Cup qualifying.
“And obviously Cubo Torres has gotten off to a great start. They have a group that can punish you if you’re not careful in transition.”
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press