Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #31 El Diablo Sees Red
|Chicago 2||D.C. United 0|
|Did You Know?|
|Lubos Kubik, who played for Czechoslovakia in the 1990 World Cup, was an assistant for the USMNT under Bob Bradley. He is currently still under contract with the USSF through the end of this year and says he is close to deciding his next move in 2012.|
#31. El Diablo Sees Red (1998)
“It was robbery.”
That’s how one of the MLS greats, D.C. United legend Marco “El Diablo” Etcheverry, still feels about MLS Cup 1998 almost 13 years after his team lost 2-0 to the Chicago Fire.
There was that second goal by the Fire which D.C. United claim should have been called back because of an offside position by Ante Razov. But another play also drew the ire of the then two-time defending champions.
Early in that final, D.C. came out firing and, on one particular sequence, the ball wound up on Etcheverry’s left foot on the left side of the box. Chicago defender Lubos Kubik came out to meet him and lunged for the ball, but “El Diablo” had already made his move toward the end line and hit the ground on the challenge. Kubik had failed to make contact with the ball.
“I remember that game when I stopped Marco in the box,” Kubik told MLSsoccer.com by phone from a suburb of Prague in the Czech Republic. “I know maybe there was a little bit of contact there, but it’s a very, very hard decision for the referee to call a penalty for that. That wouldn’t be good. I think it was a little bit of cinema [theatrics] from Marco. There was a little touch from me, I understand. At the end, the referee decided not to call it.”
“I’m thinking, we got hosed,” said ex-D.C. defender Eddie Pope. “How is that not a PK? On that day, it seemed like the calls didn’t go our way. Especially that one.”
While the D.C. players still feel victimized by the non-call from referee Kevin Terry, who didn’t recall the incident when asked about it by MLSsoccer.com, the members of the 1998 Fire say it’s time to move on.
“I remember Marco Etcheverry getting pulled down by Kubik,” ex-Fire defender and current Real Salt Lake assistant C.J. Brown said. “The comment I had back then and I have now is ‘Don’t cry over spilled milk.’ … Marco fell on the penalty. You could argue on both ends. We were a good team that year and it was fitting in the end to win.”
“The worst thing to have is when everything is on the line in the big games, and you have those calls where you scratch your head and say, ‘It was the wrong call,’” then Fire captain Peter Nowak said. “I’m glad he didn’t call it. It wasn’t a PK.”
Former D.C. United players Tony Sanneh, Roy Lassiter and Pope all acknowledged that Chicago played well on the day and they credited the Fire with taking advantage of the breaks. At the same time, they made their feelings clear that the 1998 D.C. team was, in their estimation, the best team in MLS history.
Etcheverry tells the story of a preseason meeting with referees during the 1999 preseason in which they highlighted specific plays from MLS Cup 1998 and admitted they made errors in that final. The Bolivian claims that they “apologized for it.”
“We were extremely pissed off, I’ll tell you that,” Lassiter said. “At that time we thought the referees had it in for us. Not calling a PK. The offside call on the goal and letting them get away with things. I take nothing away from Chicago. … I felt that they were trying to get a new champion in there and not let it be D.C. again.”
“Always after a game, when you lose, you try to put some problems on the referees,” Kubik said. “It’s too late.”