HISTORY: What if the 1998 U.S. Open Cup was never played in Soldier Field?
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- If you’re a Fire fan, there’s no doubt you’ve seen Frank Klopas’ 99th minute golden goal in the 1998 U.S. Open Cup final.
What if I told you though that line where the announcer says “Frankie Klopas becomes the hometown hero” might not have rung quite as true?
That’s because originally the 1998 U.S. Open Cup final against Columbus was scheduled to be played nearly two months before on August 26 in Hampton Roads, Va.
“We were all set to play the game out in Hampton Roads,” remembered long-time Fire Director of Team Operations Ron Stern. “At the time Hurricane Bonnie was forming in the Atlantic which turned out to be a pretty severe hurricane rolling through.”
Upon the team’s arrival at their hotel in Norfolk, they were met by a U.S. Soccer Federation official who said the game was being postponed because of the weather.
“We were all frustrated obviously that we had to get on a plane in the first place knowing full-well the storm was coming through but it was something we had to deal with.”
With the Fire having an away match at Kansas City three days later, Stern had to scramble to get the team out of Virginia before the storm hit.
“We ended up having to bus four hours and get on a flight out of Washington-Reagan airport due to the Norfolk airport being closed at the time and we were able to get out to Kansas City.”
It took U.S. Soccer another full month before they rescheduled the final but the wait turned out in the Fire’s favor as the Federation decided to play the match at Soldier Field on October 30.
Moving from a neutral site venue to the home field of one of the teams in the final, understandably, the Crew were not very pleased.
"I don't understand the logic in the decision," Columbus President and General Manager Jamey Roots told the Chicago Tribune. "We're allowing the players to decide what they want to do about the game. They have a team meeting Monday and will vote then on what to do."
As we know, the Crew decided to play the game and in an ironic twist, were named the home team for the match.
“They got to wear their home uniforms, sit on the home bench, have the home side and all that,” said Stern.
One thing the team refused to relinquish was their normal home locker room which U.S. Soccer didn’t intervene with.
Having tallied the game winner five davs before in MLS Cup ’98, Polish striker Jerzy Podbrozny would put the “guest in their own home” up 1-0 from the penalty spot just before halftime.
Crew striker Stern John pulled things level eight minutes into the second half, eventually sending the match to extra time setting up Klopas to “become the hometown hero” once again at Soldier Field.