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Friday, November 19, 2010
Burning Sensation: That cold night in Indy

By Peter Welpton

There are a lot of videos on the internet of me doing really silly, embarrassing things, but I'm about to introduce you to one of the more obscure. (i'll leave your Googl'in to find the others)

It was a crazy cold night in Indiana when I traveled to watch the then Dallas Burn take on the vaunted DC United for the 1997 US Open Cup.

For me that night holds two moments of special memories.

First, it was the night I witness what was the single greatest individual sporting performance I've ever witnessed, and second, it was my first in-person experience of seeing a club I support win a championship - which then lead to the aforementioned video.

The night belonged to Mark Dodd.

For those who don't know, Mark had been one of the league's better keepers, but was having a hard time breaking through to the national team, or getting credit for his season. The details are sketchy for me and I don't remember the cause, but Mark's mother had died the day before the match. I seem to think it was an "out of the blue" thing and not the end of a long illness - either way - it was a certain shocker to see Mark in the goal on that cold night. But over the course of 120 minutes and a shootout, he stood on his head making save after save. It really was a moment of sporting greatness that likely will go unnoticed on any grand scale. For me it was the equal, if not better, than Emmitt Smith's 'injured shoulder game' against the Giants. It was huge. You could see that Mark was playing for something greater, on a different level and that he could have likely won that night if it had been him versus eleven.

I was in the stands, freezing, next to the family of one Tommy Soehn who are a 'lively' bunch. At the time Tommy was a Dallas defender, but yes, the same Tommy that ended up managing DC United. I was also there with a few brave members of "The Inferno", the original Dallas Burn supporters club (some of which slept on my hotel room floor) and the less than 2000 other total fans in attendance.

It was an entertaining match, as about as entertaining as MLS could be back in 1997, as Dave Dir's Burn was always one to attack first, but missed several opportunities, as did United (who wore those awesome long sleeves w/ stripes jerseys).

But it went to PK's, Mark Dodd was the hero, Dallas won and we all rushed the pitch. This is where the video comes in. As I ran onto the pitch Tommy Soehn's brother inadvertently checked me into the advertising signage along the touchline, (which left a bruise the size of a soccer ball on my hip for the next month), but I was able to recover and join the frenzy. I was so happy, I'd never experienced winning a championship in person before. I had this giant red/black flag on PVC pole and I just started running around and around the pitch and around the pile of elated Dallas Burn humanity - and that is what you can see on the video. It's really funny.

So this weekend as I board a plane to Toronto to be there for the only other time Dallas will be playing for a Championship, it will be a freezing cold night. But there will be a lot more people there, and I won't be in possession of a giant flag. Certainly I hope to see a great individual performance, just without the personal cost. But all these years later the idea that FC Dallas Burn is finally in the MLS Cup is a pretty major deal for me personally. I can not wait to witness it, and win or lose, it will be a great experience.

Although as much as I will want to match or exceed it, I don't think it could ever eclipse the greatness of that cold night in Indy.