In 1997, the LA Galaxy were bounced from the Western Conference Semifinals by a plucky Dallas Burn side, and when the two clubs met again in the same round of the 1998 MLS Cup Playoffs, the Galaxy were poised not to let history repeat itself.
The Galaxy decimated the Burn in the first game of the series, 6-1 at the Rose Bowl, but as the series shifted to the Cotton Bowl, Dallas was determined to force a decisive Game Three. The Burn roared ahead just before halftime as Brian Haynes scored in the 44th minute. Then, just after the break, forward Jason Kreis doubled Dallas’ lead with a goal in the 48th minute of play.
However, as the match inched closer to full-time, Galaxy playmaker Mauricio Cienfuegos sparked LA’s comeback in the final 10 minutes of the game. First, Cienfuegos found Ezra Hendrickson in the 80th minute to cut the Burn’s lead in half. The dynamic Salvadoran would help tie game just five minutes later as he fired a freekick that found the head of Paul Caligiuri for the equalizer.
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After Cienfuegos set the stage, LA’s rookie midfielder Clint Mathis stole the show, slicing through the Dallas defense, and then blistering shot from inside the box to give LA the winning goal and the series sweep. The Galaxy comeback would be crushing for Dallas as it was just the second time in 39 games that the Burn had lost when leading at the 75th minute-mark.
After their come-from-behind victory over the Burn, the Galaxy seemed poised to advance to the MLS Cup Final—which was being held at the Rose Bowl---for the second time in three years, but were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by Bob Bradley’s eventual MLS Cup winning Chicago Fire side.
The goal proved to be a start of an illustrious career for Mathis, who would depart the Galaxy in 2000 after being sent to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars by way of an MLS dispersal draft. A U.S. national team regular for more than a decade, Mathis would play for seven clubs, with stops in Germany and Greece, before retiring with the Galaxy in 2010.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com