By JOHN BOSCHINI
Underdog Charlotte looked poised to pull another upset, and make North Carolina the latest victim, but Tar Heels forward Ben Speas delivered a goal worthy of a championship to help UNC win its first NCAA title in a decade.
Speas, who won a national title with Akron last season, produced the game's lone goal 24 minutes from time with a fantastic strike. Enzo Martinez passed the ball off to Speas and the Ohio native created some space for himself and produced a dipping shot that skimmed the underside of the crossbar and left Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis with no chance.
The goal held up despite a late rally from Charlotte, making North Carolina the fourth different ACC school in five years to win an NCAA title. The win also made Carlos Somoano just the second head coach to win a national championship in his first season in charge.
Charlotte showed that their appearance in the College Cup was no fluke with a flurry of chances in the final half an hour. Thomas Allen saw his goal-bound header cleared off the line by Jordan Gafa with seven minutes left. Then Goodwin stoned came up with a close-range save before seeing the rebound careen off his crossbar with five minutes left. T.J. Beaulieu's shot with three minutes left was just over the crossbar as was Issac Cowles header seconds later.
The first half produced very little in terms of gilt-edged chances neither team was able to impose their style on the other team. Charlotte was the more physical side early on and benefited from referee Michael Kennedy's unwillingness to produce cards. Giuseppe Gentile's shot in the eights minute was deflected out for a corner kick and Speas was unable to deflect home Schuler's cross for the only chances in the early going.
North Carolina should have taken the lead into the locker room but Mikey Lopez was unable to finish off a North Carolina fast break put his shot from eight yards out wide of the post.
Second half started with a bit of controversy. Donnie Smith broke into the box and was brought down by UNC captain Kirk Urso. Kennedy, who was very lenient throughout the game, denied appeals for a penalty. Charlotte almost broke the deadlock again but Goodwin came up with a big save after a scramble inside the box. Gentile continued Charlotte's dominance with a rocket from the edge of the box but his shot was just wide of the post. Goodwin then spilled a long free kick and was fortunate to see the ball go just side of the post.
North Carolina was soon back in the game just before the TV timeout as Speas floated a teasing ball to the back post but sophomore striker Robbie Lovejoy put his header just wide. It was just the precursor to Speas incredible strike with 24 minutes remaining in the game.
From then on it was all Charlotte, but the 49ers were unable to find a way past Goodwin as UNC defended with desperation.