UConn do it
Huskies defeat Creighton 2-0 for NCAA championship
Updated: Monday December 11, 2000 8:57 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Chris Gbandi waited all year to show everyone his undershirt.
And when he finally scored on a free kick, few could doubt he was Connecticut's version of Superman.
Connecticut got a rare goal from Gbandi on Sunday to win its first NCAA men's soccer title since 1981, beating Creighton 2-0 Sunday in a game that more than atoned for the Huskies' loss in the semifinals last year.
Gbandi, who on Saturday became the first defender since 1991 to win soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy, had been ribbed by his teammates all year for failing to convert a direct free kick.
He got his chance in the 16th minute of a scoreless game. He delivered with a left-footed shot from 24 yards out. That sent him on a sprint toward UConn fans on the sideline.
He lifted his shirt over his face to reveal an undershirt with the "Superman" logo. He danced around while his teammates surrounded him.
Gbandi said he had waited all year for the opportunity to show off his undershirt, which he bought over the summer and wore in every game.
"As a defender, you don't get too many chances," Gbandi said. "So I just waited. I bought the shirt and it was too small, so I cut it. Then I had to sew some of it back together and my dad was making fun of me. But I told him he would see, it was going to get used someday."
After the game, UConn (20-3-2) players ran across the field and into the stands to celebrate the school's second national title in men's soccer.
Creighton was looking for its first national title in any sport. The Bluejays (22-4) huddled before congratulating the UConn players.
A year ago, the Huskies lost 2-1 in four overtimes to Santa Clara in the semis. The winning goal was deflected off Gbandi's leg, leaving the defender on the ground in tears after the game.
But Gbandi made sure of a different ending this year.
"I thought that Chris Gbandi was the star," Creighton coach Bret Simon said. "Aside from his goal, he was the player that made the difference in the back. Every time you thought we were going to get through and get a great chance, he was there."
Gbandi's goal, his first of the tournament and sixth of the season, put UConn up 1-0.
The play was set up when Creighton's Ishmael Mintah tripped Brent Rahim five yards outside the penalty area on the right side.
Gbandi then boomed a left-footed shot to the right corner of the goal. Creighton's Mike Gabb got his right hand on the ball, but it bounced off his fingertips into the back of the net.
"I've been struggling on free kicks this year and I had to hear it all the time from the guys 'Are you ever going to hit one?'" he said. "So I made a promise that I would hit one in a big game."
In the second half, Darin Lewis sealed the victory when he scored in the 85th minute on a breakaway.
Rui Fernandez broke down the right side and fed David Castellanos. He crossed the ball into the penalty area to Lewis, who made one move on a defender and sent a right-footed shot into the net.
Lewis and Gbandi were honored as the offensive and defensive players of the tournament.
Creighton created several chances in the second half off long through balls, but Gbandi and the UConn defense prevented the Bluejays from finishing the plays.
The Huskies shut down Creighton's leading scorers. Mike Tranchilla (18 goals) and Brian Mullan (17) combined for one shot on goal.
"I didn't generate as many chances as I have been," said Mullan, who didn't get a single shot. "They had a lot of people back behind the ball and that made it more difficult for me."
It was the second consecutive year the game was played at 73,265-seat Ericsson Stadium and it again failed to draw a large crowd. Sunday's attendance was 11,421, up slightly from the 10,572 at Friday's semifinal.
Part of the reason was the failure of teams from the Carolinas or Atlantic Coast Conference to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Top-seeded North Carolina and Virginia lost in the quarterfinals, while second-seeded Clemson and Duke were eliminated in the second round.
The event moves next year to Columbus, Ohio, which has a state of the art soccer-specific facility used by the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. The more intimate stadium seats under 25,000.