Finally, in the 167th minute of play, in the eighth overtime of the NCAA soccer championship, a UCLA substitute fired a game-winning shot that put Saturday night's title game out of its misery.
Andy Burke's angled kick from 15 yards out beat American University goalie Stephen Pfeil to the near post, giving the Bruins a 1-0 victory and their first NCAA soccer title.
It ended the longest title game in the 27-year existence of the NCAA championship and dashed the Eagles' hopes for their first NCAA title in any sport.
The previous record was set in 1982, when Indiana needed 159 minutes 16 seconds to beat Duke, 2-1. When UCLA got its goal, the nine American players who were on the field collapsed from exhaustion and frustration. Most of the UCLA players also fell to the turf.
"At the end I felt a very quick and brief disappointment," said American Coach Pete Mehlert. "But it was a relief. The game had gone on too long."
Michael Brady, American's three-time senior all-America, who sat exhausted at his locker until he had to board the team bus, surely spoke for his team.
"Right now, I feel a lot of things mixed in," he said. "The memories, and the realization that we have to move on, and a bit of sadness it didn't end our way."
Mehlert, Brady, the American team and the Kingdome crowd of 5,986 were relieved because American had done nearly everything possible offensively to win and exhausted itself defensively to avoid losing.
American played the last 36:51 with only 10 players because defender Serge Torreilles had been ejected for head-butting UCLA's Dale Ervine -- and the Eagles had just nine on the field when the winning goal was scored. When Paul Krumpe sent a cross to Burke for the goal, the Eagles were without Brady, who had limped to the sideline and was flat on his back having his legs massaged to relieve cramps.
"It was unfortunate the game had to end on a confusing situation, on a possible injury call," said Mehlert, who said he was not bitter but merely philosophical at the end of the nerve-fraying experience.
Referee Brian Hall saw Brady hobble to the sideline, but "the law of the game doesn't require us to stop play and it's as simple as that," Hall said.
Less confusing was the call that gave the Bruins a man advantage. Torreilles, an outside back, had slid high into Ervine to knock the ball from his possession. Ervine had turned and kicked him, but no foul was called on either man.
"I thought he was coming at me again," Torreilles said. "I thought he wanted to kick me again." To defend himself, Torreilles, a freshman from Pau, France, used a head butt, a defensive tactic employed throughout the world in soccer. He was caught and thrown out of the game.
American, which finished 19-3-2, had dominated the Bruins (20-1-4) in the first half, outshooting them, 10-2. UCLA was resurgent in the second half and each team had tactical advantages in the overtimes.
By the end of the game, UCLA had an edge in shots, 25-22, but many were from far out and at poor angles.
"Territorially they had the advantage in overtime," Mehlert said. "But not in terms of great chances. When you're a man down, you have no choice but to give them the ball in their half."
At least three times during sudden death, American came tantalizingly close to winning. With 8:27 left in the seventh overtime, Brady controlled the ball inside the penalty box. Just as he shot it, the ball was deflected by a defender. It missed the left post by a foot. "Mike usually finishes those," Mehlert said.
With 45 seconds remaining in the same period, American's Steve Marland had room to score, but his header went right at goalie Dave Vanole.
The Bruins had a goal nullified by an offside call in the 120th minute. Tom Silvas headed the ball into the net after receiving a pass from Peter Pelle. Replays clearly showed Silvas was offside.
With 8:50 left in the sixth overtime, Silvas crossed the ball to Mike Getchell. Getchell, who was eight yards off the center of the net and unguarded, popped the ball over the center of the cage.
The only other chance for the Bruins was Burke's, which he finished. Said Pfeil of the decisive shot: "I didn't know how to save it. Maybe if I was rested. I hate to get beat on the near post but that's the way it goes sometimes. It was a good shot."
Mehlert began substituting late in the regulation to battle fatigue and to prepare for overtime.
"We had an extra player," said UCLA Coach Sigi Schmid. "But we also had more fresh legs."
Still, American had the better of the play. "UCLA is a good team," Mehlert said. "Even with a man down, we had the better chances. What other chances did they have?"
Only 15 seconds into the game American had a dangerous chance. Krumpe sloppily played the ball back to Vanole, and Brady intercepted. He shot from 15 yards out, but Vanole deflected it over the top of the net.
American's most serious threat came with 11:18 remaining in the first half. Sweeper Keith Trehy dribbled to the endline, where he neatly beat Doug Swanson and sent a low cross to the near post. Vanole got his hands on it but failed to control it. Brady was there to get off a chip shot that hit the post.
American was able to contol the midfield for most of the game. When UCLA did mount an offensive threat, it did it with passes from the defensive third of the field to the offensive third.
American's David Nakhid frequently made runs through the midfield and passed to forwards Fernando Iturbe and Barry Henderson.
Said Schmid, who played on two UCLA teams that lost in the finals in 1972 and '73: "I think we had a horrible first half . . . All it is is perseverance and faith."
Said Mehlert: "They're a good team; so are we. It's fitting both teams met in the final and it took so long to be decided."