The international flavor of American University soccer shone through as the Eagles defeated George Mason, 3-1, yesterday in the NCAA South Atlantic Regional before 3,600 at American's Reeves Field.
Fernando Iturbe of Spain and Barry Henderson and David Nakhid, both of Trinidad, scored as the Eagles took a 3-0 lead after 63:07. Frank Paciolla scored for George Mason (18-3-0) at 68:51.
American (17-2-2) advanced to a national quarterfinal next weekend (site to be determined) against the winner of today's Clemson-South Carolina game. The Eagles last reached the quarterfinals in 1979, and were eliminated by Clemson, 1-0.
"We're one of the final eight now," said American Coach Pete Mehlert. "We beat one of the hottest teams in the country. I like to think we genuinely deserve it."
The Eagles, who beat George Mason, 1-0, on Oct. 23, scored first yesterday on a set play off a corner kick at 31:43 of the first half. Henry Wagner served the ball from the corner. Glen Buchanan headed it to Iturbe, who was five yards off the far post.
"It was just an easy goal because the keeper had moved off the net," said Iturbe.
Down a goal, George Mason began to press offensively. "We decided at the half to push forward and leave it one on one in the back," said Patriots defender Mike Reynolds. George Mason couldn't convert and the strategy helped American gain opportunities.
Henderson gave American a 2-0 margin at 59:46. Iturbe sent the ball wide. Serge Torreilles, a freshman from Pau, France, crossed the ball toward the net. Mike Benitez, positioned at the near post, got a hand on it but deflected it right back out to Henderson, who had come down the field unattended.
"He knocked it straight in my path and I just tapped it in," said Henderson.
"After they get one, we have to press even further," said Reynolds. And the strategy only served to create another productive chance for American.
"They were behind," said Mehlert. "If you're behind in this kind of game, single elimination, you go for it. But it created two-on-twos and three-on-threes for us."
Michael Brady, the Eagles' senior all-America from Coventry, England, controlled the ball and tried a bicycle shot from about 10 yards. "I went for goal and I miskicked it," said Brady. The miskick became a perfect pass to Nakhid. He stopped it and scored with a low shot from about 13 yards.
To try to generate more offense, Patriots Coach Gordon Bradley substituted a third forward, Paciolla, for stopper Chris Short. Paciolla scored from in front off a pass from Fred Thompson.
"Territorially, we had more offense," said Bradley. "But we didn't capitalize, all but once."
Despite pressing throughout the second half, George Mason outshot the Eagles by only 9-8. Stephen Pfeil, American's goalie, had four saves and Benitez two. "In the first half, I thought we played brilliantly, but in the second half, the way they were playing, I knew it wasn't over," Brady said.
Not surprisingly, Brady, who had scored 23 goals this season, and George Mason's 24-goal scorer Sam Sumo were not factors on offense. Both had been neutralized by defensive play in the teams' overtime first meeting.