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Road rules in MLS: home teams suffer in Round 4

MLS Earthquakes Sounders FC Soccer

San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart points to referee Mark Kadlecik for a penalty below Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, left, and Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Servando Carrasco during an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/The News Tribune, Jeremy Harrison)


Saturday was a strange animal in MLS, a rare days of road rules. So to speak.

Visitors went 4-1-1, as Columbus, San Jose, Real Salt Lake and New England all prevailed away from home. (Vancouver managed a scoreless draw in Philly.)

That’s a remarkable degree of road achievement in a league where home teams won or tied 78 percent of the time last year.

Here’s the really important thing to remember about these matches: yes, we’re still quite early in the season. It’s just Round 4 of 34. But you know what they say, how they all count the same.

These are the matches that MLS clubs and their supporters tend to look back on in September, when playoff races get tight, or when the difference in a Supporters Shield chase is coming down to precious points or even goal difference.

If Los Angeles gets its defensive act together, for instance, and starts stacking up some points in the standings, they’ll look back on yesterday’s awful effort against New England as a key moment of opportunity lost.

Toronto FC, so desperate for its first playoff berth, will find it difficult to think about those two consecutive home losses in March, including yesterday’s loss to Columbus. The Portland Timbers will just hate themselves for losing an 88th minute lead at Jeld-Wen. That one hurts a lot already; if a tight playoff race happens this fall, the scars of that one will turn particularly hideous.