By NICK PAPADIS
AU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
WATCH 1985 NCAA SEMIFINALS MATCH VS. HARTWICK
After a very strong season, the American University men's soccer team had something to prove in 1985.
The Eagles had come up just short in the '84 NCAA Tournament when they fell to Virginia on penalty kicks in the Round of 16.
American's 11-4-2 record in '84 left it wanting even more as the Eagles headed to the new year.
With a strong squad made up mostly of returning players, all the pieces were there for the Eagles to have a great season. One player head coach Pete Mehlert would heavily rely on was senior Michael Brady, who had led the team with 22 goals the previous season.
With Brady wearing the captain's armband and the support of Fernando Iturbe and David Nakhid, father of current Eagle Panos Nakhid, American sprinted to a good start to the season, not losing in its first 13 matches of the new season.
The biggest wins at the start of the campaign came in the Sunblazer Invitational in Miami, Florida, where the Eagles beat FIU and Tampa to win the tournament. The final team participating in the event was UCLA, a team the Eagles did not face in Florida, but an opponent that was to be etched in AU history forever.
"We didn't know that after that first tournament, UCLA and American would meet in the Final of the NCAA Division I National Championship," said Mehlert.
The Eagles' first loss of the season came against William & Mary by a score of 1-0. The second defeat came against Clemson at the Clemson Umbro Invitational.
Following its loss to the Tigers, American rolled through the rest of the regular season with a tie and three wins.
As winners of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Eagles headed to the NCAA Tournament. AU hosted local rival George Mason in the opening round and won, setting up a tough match with South Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Following AU's 2-0 victory in Columbia, South Carolina, Mehlert's crew returned home for arguably the biggest game ever on the Northwest D.C., campus.
In the national semifinals on Dec. 7, 1985, in front of 5,500 screaming fans who lined Reeves Field and sat in temporary bleachers, Iturbe scored the lone goal as the Eagles topped Hartwick, 1-0, for the chance to bring home the NCAA trophy.
"When the final whistle sounded it was absolute pandemonium," said Brady. "We were pretty well-known on campus for the next couple weeks after that."
For a team that just played before more than 5,000 friends, fans and classmates in a tight bandbox complex, it was off to Seattle, Washington, and the Kingdome, a facility that housed 66,000 spectators on a given Sunday for football - for the NCAA Championship Game.
The match was nothing short of thrilling, as both teams had multiple chances despite not scoring.
The match would not only become a staple of defense, but also one that would change the history of the NCAA.
It took until the eighth overtime period for a goal to be scored. By the time a ball crossed the line, American was competing with nine players due to a red card and an injury.
Andy Burke of UCLA, who came on as a substitute, scored the game-winning goal for the Bruins to lift them over American and win the national championship.
Following the match, the NCAA changed its rules, making this match the longest in NCAA history. Now, after two 10-minute periods, a shootout is instituted to determine a winner.
Thirty years later, we honor the players, coaches, friends and families who spent timeless hours on and off the pitch to give AU something to cheer about in that special season.
Members of the 1985 team will return to Reeves Field to honor this historic accomplishment on Saturday, Oct. 3, as the current Eagles host Boston University at 1 p.m. on Alumni Day.
A Look Back At The 1985 Men's Soccer Season
By NICK PAPADIS