Record futility: Ranking the 5 worst road seasons in MLS history
Now past the halfway pole in Major League Soccer’s season, four clubs remain winless on the road, prompting the question: Can an MLS season really come and go for a club without one measly little road win?
Short answer: You bet!
It has happened. Probably more than you think. And it’s likely to happen again.
In fact, the winless season away from home has practically become a staple of modern MLS. It has happened in each of the last four seasons, and in five of the last six.
Overall, there have been eight teams that went an entire season without one win away from the creature comforts of home, plus a handful of teams that managed to dodge the notoriety of going 0-for-the-road with just one single win.
So the question becomes, which of these misfiring outfits in past MLS years were the worst of the lot in road futility? Let’s have a look at the bottom barrel five:
5. Real Salt Lake, 2005
Do not be fooled by Atlanta’s surprisingly successful launch into MLS as an expansion team; it’s an anomaly. Generally speaking, expansions seasons stink. Just ask anyone who was around for Real Salt Lake’s debut campaign in 2005.
John Ellinger’s team didn’t finish as poorly as fellow MLS debutant Chivas USA; RSL’s point total was slightly better, and a minus-35 goal difference was somehow superior to that of the misfiring Goats. But whatever success Real Salt Lake had in that first season, it was all at Rice Eccles Stadium, where the team parlayed good crowds and bad artificial turf into a respectable 5-8-3 home season.
But on the road: ooof.
RSL went 0-14-2 while conceding 41 goals (2.56 a game). The team’s best players were on the wrong side of age 30 (Jason Kreis, Eddie Pope) or fell well below expectations (Clint Mathis). Otherwise, just check the boxes on all the usual expansion team issues.
So, lopsided losses – 5-1 at Chivas USA and at D.C. United, and 4-1 at New England – happened on the regular. RSL also lost twice in Texas, which set an unfortunate trend. To this day, RSL has just two wins in 30 regular-season visits to Dallas and Houston.
The road campaign did close on a good note, a 2-2 draw at San Jose in what would be the Earthquakes’ final regular-season match at Spartan Stadium. (The team relocated to Houston a few months later.) Andy Williams, who would go on to become a beloved, inspirational figure around Real Salt Lake, had the late equalizer that day in Northern California.
By the way, a special little non-shout shout out here to Chivas USA: No one year the Goats had challenged as worst of the worst on the road. But, they managed just 13 road wins in 84 regular season matches from 2010-14. So, yeah … “Bad Goats. Bad, bad, Goats!”