FRISCO, Texas – Game day is always a big day.
But Sunday, April 14, 1996 wasn’t just any game day. For the newly formed Dallas Burn and rookie Jason Kreis, it was their introduction to Major League Soccer and the city of Dallas.
The Burn hosted the San Jose Clash on that opening day in the Cotton Bowl. Having gone without pro outdoor soccer for over a decade, the Dallas soccer community was more than ready to welcome their new team.
“[The support] was absolutely incredible,” Kreis said. “It was more than I could’ve dreamed at that time. It was a huge day and a there was a terrific, terrific atmosphere.”
Dallas Burn forward Jason Kreis (left) and head coach Dave Dir (right)
In total, a crowd of 27,779 greeted the players as they took the field for the first time in Burn colors.
“To walk through that tunnel and see the fans in the bright sunlight – they were so excited to have soccer back, you could just tell – we as players feed off that,” said starting goalkeeper and Richardson, Texas native Mark Dodd. “It was really special. I’ll never forget that.”
That moment in the tunnel – reminiscent of a gladiator awaiting the call beneath the Coliseum – also sticks long in the memory of then Burn head coach Dave Dir.
“I remember Cacho (assistant coach Carlos “Cacho” Córdoba) and I stopping in the tunnel where the temperature sign was and both having tears in our eyes for that game,” Dir said. “It was just an amazing feeling to go out for that first game.”
Dir fielded a 3-5-2 formation with Colombian international Leonel Álvarez anchoring the midfield and 23-year-old Jason Kreis operating behind two forwards.
It’s an attacking lineup on paper but neither team was able to find the net during the regulation 90 minutes. Instead of ending in a tie – as was the rule in MLS until 1999 – the game was decided by a hockey-style shootout with attackers facing the opposing goalkeeper in a 1v1 from 35 yards out.
Mark Dodd became a hometown hero that day, making four saves in the shootout en route to the club’s first win; a literal dream come true.
“I think it was extra special for me because I’m a Dallas kid,” Dodd said. “I grew up in that whole environment watching the Dallas Tornado, so that’s where the dream began for me. I watched those players and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
Dallas Burn goalkeeper Mark Dodd, who won the inaugural MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 1996
For Kreis, it was the first of his 247 total MLS appearances for Dallas, a club record that still stands today. He’d go on to score the first goal in Burn history less than a week later against Kansas City, one of many historic moments that cement him as an all-time club legend. Even still, his debut at the Cotton Bowl remains special.
“It’s where it all started,” he said. “It’s always nice to be part of the first game and that first year of MLS. And I take some pride in that, you can’t really ever replace those types of experiences.”
To honor the 25th anniversary of the club's first game, FC Dallas is streaming the original broadcast of Dallas Burn vs. San Jose Clash from 1996 on Tuesday, April 14 at 7PM on fcdallas.com/burndebut.