Having home-field advantage at this time of the Major League Soccer season can prove to be vital for the team playing in their own stadium.
One of the best known home-field advantages in North American soccer will be under the spotlight in Thursday night's Eastern Conference knockout round game between the host Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact.
At one point this season, the Dynamo had a 36-game unbeaten streak in all competitions dating back to June 18, 2011.
That streak was ended by Sporting Kansas City on May 12, and it handed a dose of confidence to other sides in the league that they could venture down to BBVA Compass Stadium and leave with a full three points.
That is exactly what happened on three other occasions, including the week after the Dynamo's streak was snapped, in the 2013 regular season.
Heading into their knockout round clash with Montreal, Dominic Kinnear's side have a stark advantage by playing at home, especially if you look at the season series between the two Eastern Conference foes.
In the three meetings between the Dynamo and the Impact in 2013, the home team has come out with a victory and a clean sheet.
With that statistical nugget in mind, Houston fans must be feeling confident in their side, who are looking to advance to the conference semifinals to take on the No. 1 seed in the East, the New York Red Bulls.
On top of that stat, the Dynamo have plenty of reason to believe that they will be the victors of the one-game winner-take-all showdown.
In their last seven games of the season, the Dynamo lost just one game—to the Red Bulls at home on October 20.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Impact limped into the playoffs by losing four of their final five contests, including a loss to Canadian rival Toronto FC on Saturday to close out the regular season.
Another positive for the Dynamo heading into Thursday is that Montreal's top goalscorer, Marco Di Vaio, has scored just twice since September 21.
Di Vaio was the leading candidate to win the Golden Boot during the summer, but just like the form of his squad, the Italian's production dropped off late in the season.
So based on the stats presented above, the Dynamo should have no problem defeating Montreal, right?
Well, you would think that would be the case, but this is the playoffs, where the unpredictable can happen.
If any MLS franchise knows how unpredictable the playoffs can be, it is the Dynamo, who have made delivering postseason magic a yearly occurrence.
Just last season it was the fifth-seeded Dynamo who charged into Toyota Park to beat the Chicago Fire, and then they advanced to the MLS Cup after defeating Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United.
Whether or not Montreal can conjure up the same postseason magic remains to be seen, but the Dynamo must be aware that what they did last season could easily be reversed on them in their quest to make it back to the MLS Cup for the third straight season.
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