Yesterday, I began the ambitious 11-part Playoff History series with a bang, taking a look back on the club’s magical run to the 1998 MLS Cup championship. Today, we step a year ahead to the bitter disappointment of an early exit from the 1999 MLS Cup playoffs.
It’s important to preface the club’s playoff experience in 1999 with a bit of context. After winning the 1998 MLS and U.S. Open Cup double, the Fire began a season of disappointments the following year with an early exit at the eventual U.S. Open Cup champions Rochester Rhinos on July 14.
Out of domestic cup competition, the team continued to focus on regular season play for the next two months before taking part in the CONCACAF Champions Cup in Las Vegas that fall. Playing on the rock-hard pitch at Sam Boyd Stadium, the Fire dispatched Trinidadian side Joe Public 2-0 in the first round before going to penalties with Costa Rican power Alajuelense after a 1-1 draw in the semifinal.
In the shootout, Lubos Kubik, who the year before had tallied six of six penalties taken during the regular season and playoffs, shot second and skied his effort high over the bar. His miss was the only one on the night as the Fire fell 5-4 to Alajuelense and leaving the Fire to miss out on the CONCACAF final played two days later.
“In 1998 we seemed like a team of destiny that was just preordained to win. A year later, it seemed the fates were evening out and there was nothing we could do to prevent the inevitable failure.” – Former Chicago Fire President Peter Wilt
#2 Dallas Burn vs. #3 Chicago Fire – Western Conference Semifinals (best of three)
With the teams splitting their four matchups during the regular season, three of which went to the old MLS shootout to be decided, this playoff encounter promised to be a tight one.
GAME 1 played 10/16/1999 at The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
WATCH: '99 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Dallas
Despite their previously more exciting matche, the first half of Game One could have seemed more like a heavyweight bout where no one wanted to land the first punch as neither team registered a shot on goal.
The home side did have a bit more of the play though and took the lead in the 52nd minute through Ariel Graziani when the Ecuadorian striker chipped Oscar Pareja towards the end line before the current Colorado Rapids coach centered across the box for an easy finish.
The goal also marked the first time the Fire had ever trailed in a postseason match.
Dallas would take their lead to 2-0 in the 75th minute when Graziani pounced on a loose ball at midfield. He’d stroll alone into the box, forcing Fire ‘keeper Zach Thornton to the floor before sliding the ball to the charging Mark Santel on the right, leaving the former U.S. international an easy finish past the desperate slide of Fire defender Tom Soehn.
The 2-0 score line seemed to wake the Fire up, pulling one back just four minutes later. Peter Nowak found the ball at the top of the penalty area and played it into the path of substitute midfielder John Ball on the right who slid a low effort past Dallas ‘keeper Matt Jordan.
With the goal, the Fire were charged for an equalizer but saw late efforts from Paul Dougherty, Diego Gutierrez and Ball all go begging, eventually falling 2-1.
GAME 2 played 10/23/1999 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
Staring elimination in the face, the Fire picked up on the momentum from the end of the first game and took the lead 18 minutes in.
Diego Gutierrez had a misplaced clearance fall for him and took a low blast from distance. The ball ended up running perfectly into the stride of Peter Nowak who took one touch into the box before finishing past Jordan.
The Fire would double their lead 18 minutes later when Roman Kosecki pounced on a bouncing ball in midfield and strolled towards goal before hitting a somewhat weak left-footed effort that eluded Jordan and tucked inside the left post.
Ante Razov (right) would take the score to 3-0 just before the break. Chasing down a long ball out of the back from Jesse Marsch, Razov bodied off the challenge of Richard Farrer before seeing Jordan far off his line. The second-year Fire striker turned with the ball and hit a 20-yard effort that left the Dallas ‘keeper only with a front row seat to see it.
Jordan continued his shocking display just after the half. Nowak chipped a ball into the box from the left for Kosecki who could only get a partial touch to the ball, making it look as if the Dallas ‘keeper would come off his line to claim it. Jordan was a step late in his approach, however and Dema Kovalenko ran on, took a touch and finished from close range to close out the 4-0 score line.
The Fire seemed to have resurrected the demons from Game 1 and after Jordan’s horrific performance in the second game, left Dallas coach Dave Dir to make a switch to veteran Mark Dodd for Game 3.
GAME 3 played 10/27/1999 at The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
The Fire’s momentum from Game 2 seemed to barely miss a beat in the decider with the Fire taking on three minutes to go up 1-0.
On the goal, Jerzy Podbrozny played a quick centering pass for Lubos Kubik who played Ante Razov through into the box. To get through the Dallas back line, Razov spun in stride without even touching the ball before placing his low effort past Dodd.
The series looked all but over two minutes later. Kubik lined up for a free kick 35 yards from goal and whipped a beautiful in-swinger between the penalty spot and the six-yard box where a sliding Jesse Marsch redirected the ball past Dodd and into the top right corner to go up 2-0.
Things weren’t all roses for the Fire in the first half as Razov left the match in the 15th minute with a hamstring strain. Already without Josh Wolff who had suffered a torn ACL back in August, the team’s attack lacked its two leading scorers for the remaining 75 minutes.
As a result, the Fire would start to fall apart after the break. In the 55th minute, future Fire defender Sergi Daniv sent a cross from the right that Zach Thornton could only get a hand to before Chad Deering cleaned up with a header at the back post in the 55th minute.
After the strike, the Fire would look to take back their two-goal lead but Dodd would stand tall turning away three efforts in two minutes from Peter Nowak (67th) Lubos Kubik (68th) and John Ball (69th).
Gaining in frustration, the team was awarded a number of yellow cards but maintained the 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes.
Things would come undone though when defender C.J. Brown, who had done a great job in marking Dallas striker Jason Kreis throughout the series, was whistled for handling the ball in the box in the 83rd minute. On the ensuing penalty, Jorge Rodriguez sent Thornton the wrong way and brought the match level.
With Dallas holding all the momentum at home, they pushed forward for the game and series clincher in the 90th minute. John Jairo Trellez pushed up on the right and centered a ball that deflected off of Brown and saw Thornton make a swiping effort before falling straight to the feet of Graziani (right) who cruelly one-timed his effort off the underside of the cross bar to complete one of the most stunning comebacks in MLS Cup playoff history.
The final 10 minutes and whole of 1999 left former Fire President Peter Wilt to simply say, “The penalty against us that tied the game seemingly made the final outcome inevitable. Just as 1998 was destined to be our year, 1999 was destined not to be.”
The Fire would be left to look for redemption in 2000 (coming Wednesday)...
Bring the Fire, the club’s 2013 season ticket renewal program, isn’t all fun and games as you might expect.
As you know, the club has been sending a group of spirited individuals to houses in the Chicagoland area and surprising each season ticket holder with a gift for renewing their tickets prior to November 1.
Well, despite the happy faces on Fire supporters everywhere, we’ve been busted.
In coming up with the idea, we may or may not have borrowed the name of our merry gang from a certain Publishers Clearing House group that rhymes with “Size Parole”.
Seeing as we are law abiding citizens here at the Chicago Fire, and we didn’t want to let down all those supporters who are hurriedly rushing to renew their season tickets so that the team with Sparky, balloons and big checks would potentially come to their house we have decided to rename the “Eyes Condole” as the, wait for it…
RADICAL REWARD FOR RENEWING YOUR CHICAGO FIRE SEASON TICKETS PATROL
We may or may not have had to overdub a few of the videos to appease some fancy lawyers in New York.
You never know, maybe the RADICAL REWARD FOR RENEWING YOUR CHICAGO FIRE SEASON TICKETS PATROL will show up to your house next.
Over the summer, we presented 15 Memorable Games and Goals from the club’s first 15 seasons. We also asked you the fans who the top 15 players in club history were.
To be clear, you won’t see numbers ranking the players. That’s because this isn’t a countdown but rather a series to honor 15 great players in Fire history.
In the previous four episodes of the #Fire15 presented by TrueCar, we’ve honored Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Carlos Bocanegra, Lubos Kubik, Jesse Marsch, Brian McBride, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Ante Razov, Chris Rolfe and Zach Thornton.
Today, three Ring of Fire inductees round out the list… The final three players are Frank Klopas, C.J. Brown and Peter Nowak.
Frank Klopas – Mr. Chicago. With eight goals and five assists across 50 games, it wasn’t stats but rather the heart and commitment Frank showed that got him on this list. Maybe that winner in the ’98 Open Cup final helped a bit too.
As Len Ziehm says in the video, the Fire needed someone local to help the new franchise make a connection to the city. Fans that remembered “Kid Klopas” from Chicago Sting in the 1980’s were reinvigorated by the reappearance of the city’s iconic soccer son in the club’s inaugural 1998 season.
More than that, there’s no player that has ever bled Chicago the way Klopas did in his two seasons playing for the Fire. Returning to the club as Technical Director in 2008 and now as head coach, Frank has served to remind the current crop of what it means every time they put on the shirt.
C.J. Brown – There are few players quite as deserving of being honored on such a list as C.J. Brown. The club’s all-time appearance leader at 372, Brown is one of only three Fire players to be part of all six domestic titles and was the last connection in the locker room to the 1998 double-winning team.
Learning from the likes of Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik and Chris Armas, the 1998 season helped guide the rest of his 13-year career, carrying on and passing down the same characteristics of hard work, competitiveness and integrity to young Fire players through the years.
As I say in the video, the former Fire captain was never flashy. He played hard, he picked up cards but he was the constant rock at the back. His legacy is still carried on in the Fire locker room today.
Peter Nowak – Often mentioned as the best player to ever wear the badge, Peter Nowak set the bar as high as it could go during his five seasons with the Fire.
Nowak joined Kubik, and fellow veteran Poles Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki as a large core of the original Fire team, captaining the side to the 1998 double and winning MLS Cup MVP honors in the process.
Having played 147 competitive matches, the first signing in Chicago Fire history tallied 29 goals and retains the Fire record for assists across all competitions (60) and in MLS play (48).
At least 11 of the #Fire15 will be present at either Wednesday night’s 15th Anniversary Match vs. Philadelphia or the October 8th Anniversary Party at the Chicago History Museum.
Also! Get your 15th Anniversary Merchandise by clicking here.
If you were holding out on buying your copy of the recently released FIFA 13 from EA Sports, wait no longer, the Fire defensive corps have given you plenty of reason to go out and buy...
In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with defender Jalil Anibaba. Now in his second season with the Fire, Jalil has put together a solid sophomore season, starting 26 of his 27 appearances. An integral part of a solid Fire defense, he has also contributed on the offensive side, scoring one goal and adding one assist. A native of Davis, Calif., Jalil was selected ninth overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Jalil took the time to answer our Burning Questions about his hidden talents, his favorite birthday memory and what it’s like to own canaries.
Always on the Inside: You were named the Gatorade California Player of the Year for Soccer in 2006-07. What’s your favorite Gatorade flavor?
Jalil Anibaba: Probably Glacier Freeze. Light blue.
AOTI: What is the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
JA: Probably a song of myself. I wouldn’t say I sing a lot but it’s a hobby of mine.
AOTI: Are you going to make us a mix tape?
JA: No. Definitely not. That’s why it’s one of the most embarrassing things on my iPod.
AOTI: Who plays Jalil Anibaba in the Jalil Anibaba movie?
JA: Probably one of my brothers because they know me so well, they’d be able to portray my character in the best light.
AOTI: Your brother Jammil and yourself look remarkably alike. How often do people confuse the two of you and have you ever used your similar looks to trick people?
JA: We’ve never used our similar looks to deceive people on purpose. In Chicago we get confused for each other pretty often. It happens a lot up in the Stadium Club after games but it’s great having my brother here for support. It’s awesome.
AOTI: Your birthday, which is on October 19, is almost exactly one month away. What’s your favorite birthday memory?
JA: I would say being back in Davis when I was younger, in my teenage years and before that. My birthdays were always special because they were times when the whole family was together. My grandmother would always come and make my favorite cake, Lemon Pound Cake. We would just have dinner together, so they were great times and great experiences.
AOTI: Last year you put together a very solid rookie season, starting 27 of 29 matches and registering three goals (one of which became the team's Goal of the Year) and one assist. This year the Fire have another rookie defender, Austin Berry, who is putting together similar numbers. Do you consider him your protégé and have you ever called him Jalil Jr.? What do you think of him following in your footsteps?
JA: No, I definitely don’t think of Austin as a Jalil protégé. Simply because I’m still a young player and I’m still trying to prove myself day in and day out. I think Austin has done a tremendous job learning on the curve, and that’s part of being a rookie. His future is definitely bright.
AOTI: What’s a typical day like in the life of Jalil Anibaba?
JA: I wake up for training, come to the stadium in the morning, and put in my day’s work as far as my profession is concerned.
Once I leave the stadium, the day is pretty slow. I like to get a nap in after training and then pretty much after the nap, it’s all about getting ready for the next day, so eating well, resting, watching either a movie or a couple of TV shows and just being ready for the next day.
AOTI: What TV shows do you like?
JA: There are a couple series that I’ve been intrigued with lately. I’m happy that season five of “Sons of Anarchy” started again; that’s one of my top choices. I was into “Damages” but that show is done now. I’m a big fan of “Suits.” With time on my hands I like to indulge in different TV series to entertain myself.
Reality TV is something that me and my brother and some of my friends like to get into. We watch “Love & Hip Hop” and “The Voice” to keep things light hearted.”
AOTI: Do you have any hidden talents?
JA: When I was young I used to skateboard and I used to yo-yo. I’m a little rusty but maybe I could still do some tricks.
AOTI: Your dad raises canaries. What’s the most interesting thing about canaries?
JA: What’s interesting about them is that the males sing, and they sing beautifully. If you’re ever to come to my house back in Davis, you’ll definitely hear birds singing, and it’s a great, great sound.