Thursday, February 7, 2013


TigerBlog isn't all that crushed that Honduras beat the U.S. in the World Cup qualifier yesterday.

Hey, the U.S. fired Bob Bradley, Princeton Class of 1980, a head coach of the men's national team, and TB is holding that grudge. On the other hand, the Americans have Michael Bradley, and well, we are talking about the United States, which is by far TigerBlog's favorite country.

So he's back to where he's been with the U.S. soccer team since Bradley was let go. And TB now founds himself closely following the Egyptian scores, to see if Bradley's new team can reach the World Cup next summer in Brazil.

Of course, TB couldn't watch the Americans play yesterday, since the game was on beIN Sports, which is owned by Al Jazeera and which has the rights to the U.S. qualifiers.

At the same time, ESPN has the rights to the Mexican games for this final CONCACAF round of qualifying. There are six teams remaining: the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica and Honduras.

As an aside, TB is definitely rooting for Costa Rica to reach the World Cup. He could picture Diego, his guide when the men's lacrosse team was in Costa Rica last June, and his father Don Carlos - not to mention the rest of the country - living and dying on every minute of "Los Ticos" game at Panama yesterday, which ended at 2-2. TB went to the Costa Rica-El Salvador game in the first round of qualifying and has seen very few sporting events quite like it.

Anyway, ESPN, because it is showing the games involving Mexico but not the U.S., the overwhelming promotional arm of the network kicks in, so that it's all Mexican highlights and analysis, as opposed to just a small amount of attention paid to the Americans, which is sort of funny.

But hey, if that's how international soccer is going to be, then TB can at least consider not rooting for his home country.

Yesterday's game was tough on the U.S. players, most of whom are currently playing in winter leagues in Europe. And then they suddenly found themselves in Honduras, where gametime temperature was 93.

TB is sure he'll be disappointed if the U.S. doesn't reach Brazil, though right now the team is the only one in the group of six without a point. Not that TB knows a lot about it, but he assumes you're not really in trouble until you lose at home.

Still, you need some ties at least on the road (like Costa Rica and Jamaica got yesterday). On the other hand, because there were two ties, then the U.S. is only one point back of second.

The next qualifiers for this group are on March 22, when TB will really be torn, as the U.S. either hosts Costa Rica or is at Costa Rica, depending on whether the home team was listed first or second in the schedule he saw.

With a break of more than a month til the next games, TB can focus on more immediate concerns. In this case, it's squash and fencing.

The Ivy League squash season finishes up this weekend, and Princeton is in a very enviable position for both the men's and women's championship.

Both the men and women are 5-0 in the league with matches against Columbia and Cornell remaining this weekend. Should the teams do not worse than split, they would have at least a share of their championship. A sweep guarantees an outright title.

Of course, Princeton has never lost to Cornell or Columbia in women's squash. Columbia is winless in the Ivy League, and while Cornell is 3-2, one of its losses is by 9-0 to Harvard, a team that Princeton has defeated.

On the men's side, Cornell poses a legitimate challenge, though Princeton will be the favorite. And a huge favorite against Columbia.

Both teams have three huge events left after this weekend, with regular season matches against Trinity, the national team championships and the national individual championships. But the Ivy League is always goal No. 1.

As for fencing, the entire Ivy League round-robin will be contested this weekend at Harvard, and the men's and women's champions will be crowned by Sunday.

Princeton is a favorite for both the men and women, though not a prohibitive favorite for either.

TigerBlog is a huge fan of the way Ivy League fencing is decided, with two days of intense matches and then a champion.

Of every sport at Princeton, TB understands fencing least of all. What he does know is that Zoltan Dudas and his staff have done a great job of turning the Tigers into perennial contenders both in the league and nationally.

Last weekend, Princeton's men defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, while also losing to No. 3 Notre Dame. Both matches were 14-13. The one thing TB does know is that you need 14 points to win the match.

The other thing TB knows about fencing is that the coaches make coffee in the mailroom next to TB's office. They make very, very strong coffee apparently.

TB doesn't drink coffee. Never has. Can't get past the smell, the same smell that comes soaring into his office as a way of letting him know the fencing coaches are there.

He forgives them for that and still roots for him.

USA soccer? That's a little more complex.

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