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Playoff History: Run to MLS Cup 2000

24 October 10:26 am

Playoff History: Run to MLS Cup 2000

By Jeff Crandall

Yesterday I detailed the heartbreak of the 1999 Western Conference semifinals against Dallas. Today, we look at the run to MLS Cup 2000…

With new commissioner Don Garber coming on board the previous fall, new rules were put in place for the 2000 season, namely 10 minutes of extra time instead of a shootout to decide tied games, the clock counting up (like the rest of the world) instead of down and perhaps hailing to his roots in the NFL, a switch to three divisions of four teams instead of two conferences of six.

Even though the Fire set club records for both points (57) and goals scored (67) in a season, the team still tied for first with Kansas City, but the Wizards owned a superior goal differential (by two goals), leaving the Fire the second seed heading into the postseason.

Because the 2000 playoff run ended up being the longest in club history (7 games) descriptions will be a tad bit shorter.

#2 Chicago Fire vs. #7 New England Revolution – MLS Cup quarterfinals (best of 3)

Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 1 (Game 1)
Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
September 15, 2000

After being outshot 5-4 by New England in the first half, the Fire would surrender the first goal after the break when Wolde Harris’ shot deflected off Tom Soehn and past Zach Thornton in the 50th minute.

It would take just four minutes for the Fire to respond though as Revs defender Mauricio Wright attempts a headed clearance of Peter Nowak’s free kick but instead hits it off the underside of the cross bar and into goal to equalize.

Fiery, second-year midfielder Dema Kovalenko would provide the winner in the 73rd, receiving a perfect chip from Hristo Stoitchkov in stride before beating a Revolution defender and finishing past Jeff Causey to give the Fire a 1-0 series lead.

New England Revolution 2, Chicago Fire 1 (Game 2)
Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
September 19, 2000

 The Fire would surrender the first goal in Game 2 as well when Wolde Harris picked up a loose ball on the right before springing future Fire forward Eric Wynalda through before the then all-time U.S. goal scorer tucked the ball inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.

Dema Kovalenko would find the 83rd minute equalizer when defender Tenywa Bonseu played a 35-yard ball forward from the right sideline and over three player into the path of the Ukrainian midfielder to finish past Causey for the second straight match.

The tying goal would stand only three minutes when Jose Luis Morales’s free kick found Mauricio Wright who redeemed his own goal from Game 1 by heading the winner home inside the left post to send the series back to force Game 3 in Chicago.

Chicago Fire 6, New England Revolution 0 (Game 3)
Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
September 22, 2000

While Games 1 and 2 were tight, from nearly the first whistle Game 3 was a complete shellacking as the Fire took a 1-0 lead when Ante Razov cleanly finished DaMarcus Beasley’s cross in the fifth minute.

Hristo Stoitchkov would put his name on the scoresheet first in the 14th when Kovalenko crossed for the Bulgarian who finished from the left. Three minutes later, Stoitchkov let loose on a 50 yard run before slipping his effort through the legs of Causey.

Into first half stoppage time, Stoitchkov heads Peter Nowak through the middle of the field before the Polish midfielder rockets his effort into the back of the net.

With the game firmly in hand after halftime, the Fire would provide two more strikes as Razov finished Stoitchkov’s pass in the 65th before Same George cleaned up Razov’s rebound in the 75th.  The final goal gave Fire the then most lopsided victory in club history as well as advanced the club back to the MLS Cup semifinals.

#2 Chicago Fire vs. #3 MetroStars – MLS Cup semifinals (best of 3)

Chicago Fire 3, MetroStars 0 (Game 1)
Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
September 26, 2000

Despite the Metros holding a 9-7 shots on goal advantage by game’s end, the Fire carried the momentum from the previous match over to Game 1.

WATCH: 2000 Eastern Conference Final and MLS Cup

 

 

The home side would go up 1-0 in the 21st when Dema Kovalenko’s shot from the right eludes the dive of Mike Petke and falls perfectly for Hristo Stoitchkov who taps in from close range.

In the 35th minute, Chris Armas steals the ball at midfield, dibbles down the center channel and plays Jesse Marsch into the right corner. The veteran midfielder then crosses to the middle of the box for Kovalenko, providing the second-year Fire player his third goal of the playoffs.

The team would close out the game late when Diego Gutierrez chips DaMarcus Beasley into space up the left. The rookie winger dribbles around Metros ‘keeper Paul Grafer before centering for Razov for an easy finish in the 84th minute to give the Fire a 3-0 win.

MetroStars 2, Chicago Fire 0 (Game 2)
Giants Stadium in The Meadowlands, NJ
September 30, 2012

The MetroStars would bounce back with a solid performance in Game 2, using Mark Chung’s individual effort in the 40th before Adolfo Valencia iced the match in the 84th to send the series back to Chicago for the MLS Cup decider a week later.

Chicago Fire 3, MetroStars 2 (Game 3)
Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
October 6, 2012

The Fire would get on the board early when Hristo Stoitchkov’s corner finds its way through traffic before finding C.J. Brown who touches it inside the left post, scoring his only MLS Cup playoff goal and just one of six in his 13-year FIRE career.

The Men in Red looked to be coasting to an easy victory in the 31st when Ante Razov laid off a ball for Stoitchkov on the left. The former European Player of the Year juked Mike Petke before lashing a beater past Mike Ammann to take a 2-0 lead. If his goal wasn’t spectacular enough, his fishing-pole celebration certainly was.

The advantage would be erased within five minutes though as Adolfo Valencia tallied his second and third goals of the series. The first would come just a minute after Stoitchkov’s strike, as the Colombian forward glanced in Petke’s cross from the right. Four minutes later midfielder Alex Comas’ shot was spilled by Zach Thornton and Valencia was there to clean up the rebound.

After a back and forth second half, the Fire would eventually find the winner in the 88th minute when Chris Armas sent a long ball up the middle of the field for a streaking Razov. The club’s all-time leading goal scorer beat the offside trap, took a few touched and finished to the right of Ammann to send the team to its second MLS Cup final in three seasons.

#1 Kansas City Wizards (1-0) #2 Chicago Fire – MLS Cup Final

Played October 15, 2000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

After the two sides tied on points during MLS regular season, they would fittingly meet in that year’s MLS Cup final.

The Fire would go down early in the 11th minute when Chris Klein streaked up the right and crossed for Danish striker Miklos Molnar. On a bit of a broken play, Molnar’s first attempt deflected off of Jesse Marsch but then fell for him to tap in from close range.

The Fire would take charge of the rest of the match being thwarted time and time again by Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola. Going through a career renaissance that year, the veteran U.S. international would make a frustrating 10 saves in the match. I’ll save the trouble of describing each one by just saying you should watch the highlight video.

After a disappointing finish in 1999, the Fire put in a valiant effort in 2000, falling just one hurdle short of a second MLS Cup in three years of existence.

Six days later though, the team would get some redemption by hoisting its second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 victory over Miami.