GREATEST MOMENTS | American nearly tripped UCLA for 1985 men’s soccer title


American-greatestThe greatest moment in American University’s sports history is also considered the greatest college soccer game ever played.

On Dec. 14, 1985, on the astroturf of Seattle’s Kingdome, the Eagles took UCLA to eight overtimes in the NCAA championship.

The longest game in NCAA soccer history lasted 166 minutes and 5 seconds, when UCLA sophomore Andy Burke scored his first goal of the season, a 15-yard shot past AU goalkeeper Steven Pheil, to give the Bruins a 1-0 victory and their first Division I soccer championship.

“I’ve never been this tired,” Burke told the Los Angeles Times after the game. “My legs are so drained. I’m so tired I can’t even think.”

While the Eagles lost, they are remembered as the most successful team in AU history and as the first to play for a Division I national championship.

They won 12 of their first 13 games to win the Colonial Athletic Association title. After sweeping George Mason and South Carolina in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, 3-1 and 2-0, respectively, the Eagles beat Hartwick College 1-0 at home in a national semifinal.

“I’ve never heard a sound like that at this university,” said AU alum David Aldridge, a Turner Sports broadcaster, who attended that game. “When Fernando Iterbi scored a goal in the 77th minute to give us a 1-0 lead. There was a feeling of camaraderie that transcended everything … we were all celebrating this incredible accomplishment by this incredible team.”

Against UCLA, AU’s Michael Brady had one of the best scoring opportunities in the first half, according to the school’s website. But the NCAA Player of the Year’s 25-yard shot sailed wide right.

AU controlled play during the first 45 minutes, outshooting the Bruins, 10-2, but did not score. The match turned when AU had a player sent off in the second half, forcing the Eagles to play with only 10 for the rest of the match, including the eight five-minute overtimes.

Then just before the winning play, the Times reported, Brady limped to the sidelines with a muscle cramp, leaving the Eagles two men short.

“I would like the game replayed, but this is certainly better than (penalty kicks),” 14th-year Eagles head coach Pete Mehlert told the New York Times after the game. “As for fatigue, anytime you get more than two overtimes, fatigue sets in and the game is no longer a reflection of how the teams can play. The fact was, we gave them the goal.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles gave their university a thrill.

• More great moments in AU sports history

On the cover: American University celebrates a 1-0 victory against Hartwick College in the NCAA national semifinals, which sent the Eagles in to the NCAA championship against UCLA. (Courtesy AU Athletics)
Video courtesy AU Athletics via YouTube

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.