The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with our Best of 2011 awards, running Dec. 19 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS and US international players, including MLS Broadcaster Call of the Year, Game of the Year and, via fan vote, the Moment of the Year.
Next up is a staff favorite: Fantastic Finish of the Year. Correspondent John Bolster breaks down three worthy candidates, but our award goes to Chicago's unlikely win over D.C. United on Oct. 15.
You have to dig deep into the thesaurus to find the right adjectives for the three remarkable finalists up for Fantastic Finish of the Year. There may not have been a tougher call among the 2011 "Best of" awards, but we think the winner is a deserving one.
Chicago’s miraculous stoppage-time comeback against D.C. United in mid-October was not only as astonishing as the other finishes here, but it was also a more crucial result, as it kept the Fire’s faint playoff hopes flickering for one more week of the MLS season.
Chicago entered the game six points out of the playoffs with two matches to play. D.C. were also on the postseason bubble, and the game began with the urgency you’d expect from two sides battling for their playoff lives — but clear goal-scoring opportunities were less than plentiful. Turned out the teams were saving the fireworks for the end — the very end.
In the 90th minute, D.C. were awarded a questionable penalty after the referee ruled that Fire defender Gonzalo Segares had tripped Santino Quaranta in the box.
Dwayne De Rosario buried the spot kick, leading most reasonable observers to believe he’d locked down three points for the hosts while eliminating the visitors from the postseason.
But not long after the referee’s assistant signaled a paltry three minutes of stoppage time, reason went right out the window: Segares, shaking off the dubious penalty call, got forward to tee up Sebastián Grazzini with a skillful layoff. The Argentine made no mistake, blasting a shot past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid to make it 1-1.
It was a terrific play, but in this spot, it was not enough — a tie might as well have been a 6-0 loss for Chicago.
Luckily for Fire fans, Segares was way ahead of the plot. A minute later he beat the D.C. offside trap, chased down a ball over the top from Orr Barouch and, sliding at the endline, hooked it back in front of goal.
Diego Chaves crashed the net to bundle it in for a sensational victory and the most fantastic finish of the 2011 season, one that kept Chicago in the playoff hunt until the final week.
2. Vancouver tie Sporting Kansas City, April 2
Vancouver’s season didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped — or as all the magic unfolding at Empire Field in March and April suggested it would. Chief among those marvelous spring moments was this game: Trailing Sporting KC 3-0 with 17 minutes to go, the Whitecaps got a goal from Atiba Harris and two — in stoppage time — from Camilo to rally for a startling 3-3 draw.
3. FC Dallas beat Sporting Kansas City, Aug. 27
Rookie Bobby Warshaw opened his MLS scoring account in the most dramatic fashion imaginable, heading in a stoppage-time game-winner from Brek Shea’s cross — just moments after Shea had set up Maicon Santos in an almost identical play to make it 2–2 in the 89th minute.
WATCH: Discussing the Fantastic Finish of the Year