A weekend full of heroics had produced no single hero, and finally all was right with the George Washington men's soccer team.
Atlantic 10 tournament MVP Arnar Johannsson scored the overtime goal in a semifinal triumph over top-seeded Massachusetts on Nov. 15. Two days later, all-conference senior forward Matthew Osborne tallied the 89th-minute winner in the final. At the conclusion of the contest that sent the Colonials to today's NCAA tournament first-round game at American -- GW's first berth in 13 years -- the pair was tied for seventh on the national scoring chart.
"If two strikers can be good friends and share the goals, then we can't have any other problems on the team," Johannsson said.
There were no problems in Richmond as scorers, starters, reserves and a half-dozen players left off the Atlantic 10 tournament roster celebrated a moment that seemed impossible when the struggling Colonials were 4-6 in early October. For Johannsson, a junior, the moment confirmed his team had overcome a challenge that would be the envy and the bane of most.
"You didn't see any unhappy faces. They came on the field, and we were all happy," Johannsson said. "You wouldn't have seen that in the beginning of the season or the middle, but now we have become a team."
A glance at the NCAA scoring leaders, in which players earn two points for a goal and one for an assist, reveals the Colonials' unique situation. Nearly all of the top 10 scorers have around twice as many points as the second-leading scorer on their team. Finding a pair of players on the same team who are good enough -- and willing -- to share the responsibility and glory is rare.
Osborne, Johannsson and the rest of the Colonials needed nearly two seasons and a team meeting this month to master it.
Following a freshman season during which he scored just once, Osborne embraced the frenetic pace of college soccer and started to score. A hard worker and the consummate captain, the compact, 5-foot-10 Englishman tallied 25 goals over the next two seasons. His reliance on effort stood in stark contrast to Johannsson, a 6-3 native of Iceland whose more relaxed and cerebral approach to the game disappointed teammates. Although Johannsson continued to produce, scoring 10 goals last fall and 18 this season, there were questions about his work ethic and his commitment to win.
"I was one of those people in the beginning, looking at him and saying 'Yeah, but is he really that great?' " said Osborne, who has 19 goals this year. "It didn't cause any animosity -- he's the greatest guy -- but I think this semester we've come to understand each other a lot more. Not everyone practices exactly the way they play and he's not one of those people, but when it counts he knows exactly what it takes."
The pair admits they push each other in the spirit of friendly competition and have come to appreciate each other's style. Osborne envies Johannsson's ability to sense the game and subtly work his way into scoring positions. Johannsson said he has high regard for his partner's playmaking and defensive acumen. The team has returned that respect to Johannsson, especially since he played through a painful hamstring injury midway through this season.
"They both realize that if they don't work together neither one of them is going to have success," said senior Michael Goldman, a tenacious midfielder who also has come around on Johannsson.
"I think he's watched [Osborne] and what Ozzie's hard work has given him and the team and realized that if he can work that hard, this is the glory that he and the team are going to get. . . . I don't think defenses have seen two players playing together with this amount of finishing ability. It's a ridiculous amount."