Tyler Adams and the Red Bulls will have to raise their level or suffer the consequences. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
The Red Bulls need a miracle to reach MLS Cup Thursday night, a miracle of historic proportions.
No team in MLS Cup Playoffs history has ever overturned a three-goal deficit from the opening leg of a two-game aggregate-goal series and gone on to advance to the next round.
That’s what the Red Bulls must accomplish when they host Atlanta United in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final at Red Bull Arena. United won the first leg by a 3-0 score.
Teams have won by three-goal margin in the first leg on four occasions – and in every instance have gone on to the next round. A three-goal advantage after the first leg of a conference championship has happened only once before – in 2012, when the LA Galaxy defeated Seattle Sounders FC 3-0 in the opening match, before winning the series 4-2 on aggregate.
In fact, at any point in any two-game series in playoff history, as much as a three-goal deficit has been overcome only twice.
The first time occurred in 2003, when the San Jose Earthquakes were down 4-0 on aggregate early on in the second leg, before coming back to defeat the LA Galaxy 5-4 on aggregate in their conference semifinal series.
In 2016, Toronto FC trailed the Montreal Impact, 3-0, in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final after 53 minutes, before making its way back to a 3-2 loss in that match and winning the series 5-3 on aggregate.
The Red Bulls could be setting the stage for becoming the first team to pull off such a comeback. They enter the second leg of the conference championship having not allowed a goal at RBA since Aug. 5. they have played 577 minutes at home since last conceding a goal. During the 2018 regular season, they won four games by shutout while scoring three goals or more – all four matches at RBA.
MLS Cup is set for Dec. 8.