Work in Sports
DALLAS (Ticker) -- The Dallas Burn advanced to the Western Conference finals for the second straight season, rallying from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 victory over the defending MLS champion Chicago Fire.
Ecuadorian striker Ariel Graziani's late goal was the difference, sparking a frenzied celebration among fans at the Cotton Bowl.
The Burn got on the board in the 55th minute, climbing within 2-1 when Sergi Daniv sent a cross in front of goalkeeper Zach Thornton. While Thornton was positioning himself to stop Graziani's attempted side volley, midfielder Chad Deering rushed in and headed the ball into the far corner of the net.
Chicago managed to hold off numerous Dallas attacks before the Burn equalized in the 84th minute off Jorge Rodriguez's penalty kick. Fire defender C.J. Brown, who managed to keep Jason Kreis under wraps for most of the game, was called for handing the ball inside the penalty box.
Rodriguez took the ensuing penalty kick and put the ball past Thornton.
Graziani got the game-winner in the 86th minute, capitalizing on chaos in front of the Chicago net. Colombian attacker John Jairo Trellez forced the ball through the defense to a streaking Dante Washington, who redirected it across the goal mouth to a waiting Graziani. Thornton, who came off his line to challenge Washington, was in no position to stop Graziani's shot from finding the back of the net.
Chicago got on the board in the third minute when sweeper Lubos Kubik found teammate Ante Razov at the top of the penalty area. Kubik threaded a pass through the defense to Razov, who executed a tight turn to get a clear shot. He managed to squeeze the ball between the near goalpost and 'keeper Mark Dodd, who started in place of Matt Jordan.
Razov left in the 15th minute with a hamstring injury.
Kubik got another assist moments later, dropping a free kick behind the defense. Midfielder Jesse Marsch slid in from the left flank, deflecting the ball past Dodd in the fifth minute.
Despite the early lead, the Fire was unable to hold the momentum for very long. Chicago spent much of the game with 10 players back, trying to stifle the dangerous duo of Graziani and Kreis.
The Burn had been 0-9 this season when allowing the first goal. But they improved to 16-0 when scoring at least two goals.
Dallas will face the Los Angeles Galaxy in the conference finals, beginning Sunday at the Rose Bowl. The Burn and Galaxy have met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, with Dallas recording a sweep in 1997 and Los Angeles returning the favor last year.