Michael Brady scored one goal and assisted on another to lead American to a 2-0 soccer victory over South Carolina on the Gamecocks' swamplike field in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal game today.
American (18-2-2) will play Hartwick (17-2-1) in a semifinal game sometime this week. The date and site have not been determined. Hartwick defeated Boston University, 1-0, today. In other quarterfinal games, Evansville shut out Penn State, 1-0, and UCLA beat Southern Methodist, 2-0.
"It's your basic Cinderella story," said American Coach Pete Mehlert. That might be overstating the case: the Eagles have been ranked as high as eighth in the country. But the Gamecocks (23-1) had beaten Duke, 3-0, and defending national champion Clemson, 1-0, last week to reach the quarterfinal. The Eagles drew a first-round bye and beat George Mason, 3-1, last weekend.
"It's a dream," said Mehlert
While others slipped and slid on a field well-suited to mud wrestling, striker Brady deftly scored his 24th goal of the season at 58:11, when it appeared he had no shooting angle at the net. He assisted on Billy Corbett's goal at 76:30.
"In England we have a word for these conditions -- fun," said Brady, a U.S. citizen by birth who grew up in Coventry, England, and has been named all-America the last two seasons. "These are your basic English conditions.
"I got a lot of confidence," he said. "Every time I got the ball I was going to do something with it."
Brady didn't get the ball much in the early going, but the Eagles did get scoring opportunities. At 9:14, midfielder David Nakhid beat three defenders. His straight-on shot from 10 yards, however, went wide left. Twelve minutes later, American missed opportunities when Adrian Gaitan took two successive corner kicks.
Mehlert was concerned the field's conditions might affect the Eagles "because our team is based on possession and short passes," he said.
Said Corbett, "If you looked at the surface, it wasn't made for passing. But we overcame it and played the ball to each other in the air."
Eventually, they were able to play it to Brady. Approximately 13 minutes into the second half, Serge Torreilles sent a free kick ahead to Brady, who was double-teamed.
"I knew the big guy was on my back," said Brady, who eluded Marty Baltzegar, South Carolina's 6-foot-3 stopper. Moving within a few feet of the end line, he put the ball between sweeper Bill Hency's feet.
Gamecocks goalie Warren Lipka moved off the goal line because Brady, two feet from the end line and six yards from the net, had left a nearly impossible angle. "I thought he was going to cross it," said Lipka.
Brady's shot was low to the ground and beat the goalie to the short side. "I knew once I struck it and once the keeper committed, it would be in," Brady said.
In setting up the second goal, he dribbled toward the end line. "I had to cover my near post," Lipka said. "And this time he crossed it." Corbett, who was unguarded, played the ball in the air. His shot glanced the inside of the far post.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Brady said. "We're in the Final Four. Don't get me wrong. It's not luck that we're here."