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Dallas burns Chicago with one of the greatest comebacks in MLS history.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, October 27, 1999) -- The Dallas Burn advanced to face the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Major League Soccer Western Conference final after one of the great comebacks in the league's short four-year history. It was one of the downright weirdest games in MLS history.

Through its inconsistent season, one would never know which Chicago Fire team would show up on any given day -- the defending league champions or a bumbling bunch that managed to lose a total of 15 matches this year. Tonight in Dallas, they both showed up.

The Burn was forced to make several key changes on their back line with starting defenders Brandon Pollard and Richard Farrer out with injuries. Mark Santel was moved back into the middle. Then to get what Dallas coach Dave Dir called "more composure and experience," rookie goalkeeper Matt Jordan was put on the bench in favor of veteran Mark Dodd. The result, initially, was a disaster.

In the first five minutes Chicago, playing the flowing style that won it the championship last season, sliced through the makeshift Dallas defense for two goals. It looked like Dallas was totally overmatched and would go down easily. Then Chicago stopped playing any offense, Dallas caught its breath and settled down. And gradually the Burn began to work itself back in the match.

The turning point in the match may have occurred when shortly after Ante Razov, who scored the first Fire goal, went off in the 15th minute with a slight hamstring pull. Chicago decided to pull back and protect its two-goal lead and in the end that proved its undoing.

Dallas, to its credit, never seemed to lose heart. The Burn battled back and in the 55th minute an unmarked Chad Deering struck a perfect header to make it 2-1. The Burn kept pressing but could not break through for a second goal.

Then, Chicago defender C.J. Brown, who played well all evening, tried to make a sliding block on a shot in the area and handled the ball. The resulting penalty kick by Jorge Rodriguez drew the Burn level at 2. After that, the Burn came at Chicago in waves and the Fire could no longer resist.

It was fitting that the winner was scored by Graziani who has been the spark of the Burn ever since his arrival from New England.

This was an extremely physical match. Yellow card followed yellow card -- a total of nine were issued, five to Chicago -- as the game for long periods looked more like a rugby scrum than a soccer match. If Chicago had managed a third goal in the first half, the match would have been completely out of reach. But the Fire was content to kick the ball around in the midfield and to absorb what Dallas was throwing at it. In the end the Fire proved the old soccer adage that you can't defend for 90 minutes unless you are a very good team, and Chicago has not been that good most of this season.

So it's on to Los Angeles for the Burn as it tries to derail the hottest team in MLS.

Robert Wagman is a regular contributor to SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at SoccerWag1@aol.com.

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