March 7, 2007: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
By David Mordkoff ’01
Bob Bradley ’80 concedes that at Princeton, he was not the nation’s best soccer player. Legions of American soccer fans, however, are hoping that he will be the country’s best coach.
Bradley was named interim head coach of the U.S. men’s national team in December, succeeding his friend and former boss Bruce Arena, whose contract was not renewed following last summer’s World Cup. Bradley also will coach the U.S. under-23 national team as it attempts to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
In an interview with PAW, Bradley — whose coaching background includes 12 seasons at Princeton — said he was excited to “take the baton from Bruce, and to see how far we can run with it.” So far, Bradley’s national team has run well in a pair of exhibition matches: The United States defeated Denmark, 3–1, in Bradley’s debut Jan. 20, and shut out Mexico, 2-0, Feb. 7 in front of more than 60,000 fans in Glendale, Ariz. Many of Bradley’s friends and former players hope that the U.S. Soccer Federation will drop the “interim” tag from his title in the spring.
“I think the world of Bob and the way he handles himself,” said Jesse Marsch ’96, who played for Bradley both at Princeton and professionally in Major League Soccer. “He’s truly an asset to our sport and our country. It looks like, more and more every day, that he’ll be around a little bit longer than everybody thought.”
Bradley, a New Jersey native and the brother of Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley, has come a long way in his soccer career. He was a forward on the Tiger soccer teams of the late 1970s, leading the team in scoring in 1979 and helping Princeton reach the second round of the NCAA tournament. Even back then, Bradley looked at the game with a coach’s eye.
“All my buddies who played with me at Princeton know that I was never the most talented player,” Bradley said. “I probably drove my roommates crazy, because even then I was one that thought about the game a lot, thought about what we did in training, thought about how we could be better on the field. In those ways, I don’t think it’s been a big surprise to some of those guys that I got into coaching.”
Bradley has been a successful coach at all levels of soccer, thanks in part to an early start. After graduation, he tried to crack the professional ranks as a player, but a year later he became the head coach at Ohio University.
“I had this unique opportunity at 22 years old to take all the things I thought about in soccer and try them out and experiment,” Bradley said. “There were a bunch of guys on the team who were older than I was.”
Bradley’s experiments continued as he went on to work as an assistant to Arena at the University of Virginia, before taking the head coaching job at Princeton in 1984. In 12 years as coach, his thoughtful style helped the Tigers win two Ivy League titles. Princeton advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1993, where Bradley’s team lost a semifinal match against Arena’s Virginia squad, the eventual national champion.
Current Princeton head coach Jim Barlow ’91, who reached the NCAA tournament while playing for Bradley, remembered the coach’s attentiveness. “He’s so detail-oriented and notices so many things,” Barlow said, “[yet] he’s still flexible in the sense that once the game starts, he trusts his players to make decisions and he makes them feel confident to make decisions based on what they’re seeing.”
Bradley left Princeton in 1996 for a job as an assistant coach with D.C. United of MLS. Two years later, he was named head coach of the Chicago Fire and led the expansion team to the MLS Cup title. He has since coached the New York-New Jersey MetroStars and Los Angeles-based Chivas USA.
Marsch, who played for Bradley in Chicago and Los Angeles, has been impressed by Bradley’s ability to get the most out of his players.
“Back in the Chicago days, on days when he’d play in training, he’d be the worst player on the field, but his team would always win,” Marsch said. “And it was because of the way he would motivate and organize guys and push them in a way that normally they wouldn’t have been pushed.”
David Mordkoff ’01 is a law student in Charlottesville, Va. He covered the last two World Cups for the Associated Press.
After five straight losses, including its first four Ivy League games, the men’s basketball team finally had its shot to win Feb. 9, controlling the ball with 26 seconds left in overtime against Harvard with the score tied, 60–60. But despite a series of passes, cuts, and curls, the best the offense could manage was a hurried 17-foot jump shot by Mike Strittmatter ’09 that never reached the rim.
The Tigers eventually surged ahead for good in the second overtime, building a six-point lead when Marcus Schroeder ’10 found Justin Conway ’07 sprinting behind the Crimson’s full-court pressure defense for a layup. After the game, head coach Joe Scott ’87 said that the 50-minute marathon provided an important lesson: “When you’re struggling, you learn how hard it is to win.”
The axiom remained true the following night, when Princeton dropped a heartbreaker to Dartmouth, 45–44, and three days after that, when the Tigers made just 31 percent of their shots in a 48–35 loss at Penn. At the season’s midpoint, the Ivy title race was shaping up to be an exciting one, with Cornell and Yale each one game behind first-place Penn, but the Tigers were an afterthought, alone in last place.
Princeton started the year with a promising 9–4 record, including one of its most impressive defensive performances in recent memory in a 51–28 win over Rice Jan. 6. But when leading scorer Kyle Koncz ’08 was hobbled by a foot injury, the young Tigers’ fortunes began to crumble. Princeton was held to fewer than 50 points in five of its first seven Ivy games. Koncz was able to play on Friday nights in the first three Ivy weekends, but on Saturdays he spent most of his time on the bench, playing five minutes against Cornell Jan. 13, nine at Brown Feb. 3, and sitting out the Dartmouth game.
Strittmatter and Noah Savage ’08 helped to fill Koncz’s share of the scoring load, and shooting guard Lincoln Gunn ’10 made strides in the early Ivy contests, contributing 22 points, five assists, and no turnovers in the Harvard game. “We’ve got good young players,” Scott said. “We’ve got to learn how to win consistently. We got derailed. I think we felt pretty good about ourselves as a team and what we were building and developing, and we hit a snag.”
With a 7–2 win over Harvard Feb. 11, WOMEN’S SQUASH won its first Ivy League title in nine years and completed the regular season with a perfect 8–0 record. The Tigers, ranked No. 5 in the country in early January, defeated No. 1 Penn, No. 2 Trinity, No. 3 Yale, and No. 4 Harvard in a two-week span. The Princeton women were 62–10 in individual matches during the dual-meet season.
MEN’S SQUASH also captured the Ivy championship with a win over Harvard Feb. 11. The Tigers were two points shy of falling behind 0–4 when No. 6 player David Canner ’10 started a remarkable turnaround by winning in five games. Princeton swept the five remaining matches, including an upset win by Mauricio Sanchez ’09 over 2006 national runner-up Siddharth Suchde.
MEN’S HOCKEY’s Kevin Kaiser ’10, right, celebrated his third-period goal, the Tigers’ final score in a 3–0 win against Dartmouth Feb. 10. Goalie B.J. Sklapsky ’07 made 33 saves in the shutout victory. Princeton entered the season’s final two weekends with a 10–12–3 record and a chance to host a first-round playoff series for the first time since 1998–99.
With a 2–0 win at Clarkson Feb. 10 and a 3–3 tie at No. 4 St. Lawrence Feb. 11, WOMEN’S HOCKEY improved to 14–10–3 this season. Kim Pearce ’07, who scored in both games, has led the Tigers in both goals (14) and assists (17).
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL forward Meagan Cowher ’08 scored her 1,000th career point in a win against Brown Feb. 3 and averaged 22.7 points per game in Princeton’s first seven Ivy games, but the Tigers slipped to the middle of the Ivy standings after lopsided road losses at Harvard and Dartmouth Feb. 9 and 10.
MEN’S FENCING defeated Harvard and Brown but lost to Penn on Feb. 11, the opening day of Ivy competition. Tommi Hurme ’08 was 9–0 in epee bouts. WOMEN’S FENCING lost to Harvard and Penn before topping Brown in its third match.
Two former Princeton FOOTBALL standouts accepted new NFL coaching jobs in January. Jason Garrett ’89, formerly the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach, was hired as a coach for the Dallas Cowboys Jan. 25, and Joe Baker ’91, a college and professional coach for 14 seasons, was named the Denver Broncos’ linebackers coach Jan. 28.