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Where were you in 1998? Enquiring Fire minds want to know. Were you in the stands when current Fire announcer Frank Klopas scored the goal that won the Fire the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, thereby securing the famous double. The Fire won both the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open cup in their inaugural season.
This Sunday the Fire will look back to that year when they take on the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park. The Fire were the first expansion team to win the double and so far, the only one to do so. That was the year the greats played, the ones immortalized in the Ring of Fire, the Fire’s Hall of Fame. Just look up on the wall of the stadium and you can see their names. The name also of the Fire’s first General Manager Peter Wilt and first head coach the legendary Bob Bradley.
The names still echo among fans today, goal scoring leader Ante Razov, Peter Nowak, Chris Aramas, Frank Klopas, Roman Kosecki, Jerzy Podbrozny, Frank Klopas and Lubos Kubik. Thanks to these players along with Goal Keeper Zach Thornton, defender C.J. Brown the fire put together the longest win streak in MLS history of 11 games. They finished second in the Western Conference that year with a record of 20-12.
If the Fire’s regular season accomplishments weren’t enough, what the Fire accomplished in the playoffs were truly amazing. In the semi-finals Chicago downed the Colorado Rapids, then went on to face the heavily favored L.A. Galaxy in a shootout.
The Fire were complete underdogs in the MLS Cup final facing the two-time Champions D.C. United. But everybody loves an underdog. The Fire scored two goals in the first half and stunned D.C., the Fires defense did the rest defeating D.C. 2-0 for the first clean sheet in MLS Cup history.
But the Fire weren’t done yet, six days later they defeated the Columbus Crew thanks to a golden goal from now Fire announcer Frank Klopas. With the thrilling win the Fire did the Double. The Players who accomplished this great feat won some individual accolades as well. Including Coach and Goal Keeper of the year. They were also named to the MLS best Eleven. The Fire have yet to repeat this amazing feat, and no expansion team has accomplished it either.
Perhaps they can start another amazing win streak and inch closer to the playoffs when they take on the Houston Dynamo this Sunday. Just like in 98 the Fire are facing great adversity with several starters injured, including Dax McCarty. So, who will step up now just like in 98 when Josh Wolff was scoring, and Zach Thornton was commanding the net. Can Nemanja Nikolic find his lethal foot again? Can the Fire repeat 98 20 years later?