Maryland triumphs as Zusi strikes again
FRISCO, Texas - Graham Zusi has been a member of Maryland's two NCAA men's soccer championship teams in the past four years. The latest one was the sweetest.
Zusi's second-half goal gave second-seeded Maryland a 1-0 victory over 13th-seeded North Carolina in the title game yesterday.
Maryland (23-3-0) took the crown in 2005 when Zusi was a freshman who contributed off the bench. This time, Zusi was one of the Terrapins' senior leaders.
In the semifinals, the attacking midfielder notched the game's only goal in extra time to beat St. John's. Then, on the season's biggest stage, Zusi came through again with the game's lone goal.
"Both were special in their own ways," Zusi said of his two national titles. "But I'm extra happy to be a part of this one."
Maryland, which finished the season with a 16-game winning streak, beat North Carolina (15-8-1) for the third time in as many meetings this season in the first all-Atlantic Coast Conference final in the 50-year history of the tournament.
The Terrapins had winds gusting to 25 miles per hour at their backs in the first half and they had four shots on goal to none for the Tar Heels as coach Sasho Cirovski urged his team to press early.
Maryland didn't get the break it needed until there was 23:50 left. Tar Heels defender Eddie Ababio blocked Jeremy Hall's shot, but Zusi blasted the rebound into the left corner from 18 yards out past goalkeeper Brooks Haggerty.
"It's being in the right place at the right time, trying to step up when the team needs me most," said Zusi, chosen the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player. "I was able to curl it around [Haggerty]."
Haggerty had little chance to get a hand on the winner.
"It bobbled around, [Zusi] was wide open up top, and he had all the time in the world," Haggerty said.