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The Greatest Game in Dallas Burn History: The 1999 Western Conference Semifinal

FRISCO, Texas – In the third throwback edition of the FCD Rewind series, FC Dallas will rebroadcast one of the most exciting matches in its history: the 1999 Western Conference Semifinal against the Chicago Fire. The game will be streamed this Thursday, May 28 at 7PM on fcdallas.com/ondemand and will feature commentary from former Burn/FCD players Eric Dade and Dante Washington who both featured in the match.

Setting the Scene
The Dallas Burn enjoyed a strong 1999 campaign. Head coach Dave Dir led the team to second place in the Western Conference, finishing three points behind leaders LA Galaxy and three points above the Chicago Fire. Star forward Jason Kreis was named MLS MVP after topping the scoring charts with 18 goals and winning Player of the Week on six occasions. The Fire were defending champions after winning the MLS Cup as a first-year expansion team in 1998. Led by up and coming head coach Bob Bradley and a roster filled with future MLS greats like Ante Razov, Dema Kovalenko and Josh Wolff, the Fire was a very formidable opponent. With Dallas and Chicago finishing in second and third place respectively, the stage was set for a blistering Western Conference Semifinal showdown.

The Rivalry
As many will know, the Chicago Fire was Dallas’ first true rival. While it didn’t have an official name in ’99, their rivalry would become known as the Brimstone Cup – a moniker taken from the clubs’ pyro-based names. But with Chicago moving to the Eastern Conference and the Houston Dynamo’s arrival, the Brimstone Cup has taken a backseat to the Texas Derby in recent years. Still, it’s a rivalry that resonates deeply with fans and often produces hotly contested games. But it’s unlikely it will ever reach the heights that it did during the 99’ playoff series.

“People don’t realize how much of a rivalry it was because Houston is there now. But we played Chicago so many times and I feel like every single game was a heated battle. I had some really good friends on the team but when it came time to play, we did not like each other.” –Dante Washington (Dallas Burn 1996-99)

“That was a rivalry that sticks with you forever. It was super competitive with lots of good players. And there was a lot of pride in it. There was anxiety in every moment of the game. And looking back, that’s what you want as a competitor: things that push you to the edge and get the best out of you.” –Eric Dade (Dallas Burn 1997-2001)

An Unlikely Comeback
Thursday’s rebroadcast will show the third game in the best of three series that was the ’99 Western Semifinal. While Dallas had scraped a 2-1 victory in first match, they had been soundly beaten 4-0 at Soldier Field in Game 2. Although goal difference/aggregate wasn’t a factor back then, the demoralizing defeat and a career-ending injury inflicted on Burn defender Brandon Pollard by Chicago’s Kovalenko meant Dallas had their backs against the wall for the third and final game of the series.

“It was tough, we had to turn it on quickly and change our mindset,” Burn defender Eric Dade said. “Obviously the loss in Chicago was negative, it was hard to think about it because we got beat very badly. There’d had been a bad injury to Brandon Pollard and he was the heartbeat of the team at that time, so we had that loss too. It was a heated game and it took a lot out of us. But Dave (Dir) did a good job of getting our mindset right as quickly as possible so we could start to build toward that third game.”

But the Burn started Game 3 even worse than their previous outing. Dallas found themselves 2-0 down in the Cotton Bowl after five minutes. With the 4-0 thrashing from Game 2 still fresh in their minds, it would’ve been easy to count themselves down and out.

“When you go down 2-0 at home so early on, some teams think ‘there’s no way we’re going to be able to do this’ but we had a lot of talented players and we had belief in ourselves too so we didn’t let that thought creep in,” said Dallas forward Dante Washington. “When you’re playing in a game that means so much – like the playoffs – you just continue to play, continue to play, continue to play.”

The Burn didn’t get on the scoresheet until the 55th minute when Chad Deering scored to bring them within one. But when another half hour passed without a second goal, a true comeback seemed unlikely. However, Dallas was given an 84th minute penalty and Salvadorian international Jorge Rodríguez stepped up to even the game at 2-2, which would’ve taken the series to a shootout. But, just two minutes later, Dallas’ Ariel Graziani picked up a loose ball in the box and beat Chicago’s goalkeeper with a shot that rattled off the underside of the crossbar and just over the line—completing an improbable comeback, the greatest in Dallas playoff history.

Washington: “And when I saw that ball go into the net, I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I cannot believe we did it. We did it, we did it, we did it!

“You just kind of look back and think, ‘Man, how did we do that? How did we pull it off?’ Because, that doesn’t always happen.”

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