Monday, July 31, 2017

New Man In LA

In almost any other week, the biggest news involving someone whose resume can include "head men's soccer coach at Princeton University" would be the big news involving the person who currently has that position.

Yes. Jim Barlow broke 80 in golf for the first time this past week.

If the Princeton University Department of Athletics decided to have some sort of decathlon of events, Barlow would be the favorite to win. Not a track and field decathlon. But he's already the department ping-pong champ, can break 80 in golf, would definitely be in the Jadwin lunchtime basketball Hall of Fame and could probably be good at just about any sport he set his mind to do.

TigerBlog first met Jim Barlow when he was a soccer player at Hightstown High School, which isn't very far from Princeton. TB was covering high school sports back then in the newspaper business.

That was more than 30 years ago. In fact, TigerBlog met Barlow before anyone else he's worked with at Princeton.

By the time Barlow was a Princeton player, TigerBlog was covering college sports. He wrote about Barlow as a Princeton player as well. And worked with him when Barlow wrote a few columns for the newspaper TB was working for at the time.

Now Barlow is about to start preparing for his 22nd season as the head coach of the Tigers. He has a record of 162-145-53, and he has won 26 more games than any other men's soccer coach in program history.

When you talk about all the things that Princeton Athletics want to be, you're talking about Jim Barlow. He's a proven coach. He takes his players' welfare seriously. He's an educator. He's a great role model for them. He's a competitor. And, on top of all that, he's the absolute last coach who would ever break an NCAA rule.

And now, to that, you can add breaking 80. Pretty impressive.

As TigerBlog said, though, it's not the biggest news of the week for a Princeton soccer coach. Nope.

Neither is the story about how Charlie Stillitano, a 1981 Princeton grad, was named one of the top 50 most influential people in soccer by ESPN. You can read all about Charlie HERE.

Bob Bradley, Barlow's predecessor, continues his worldwide tour of soccer coaching as he becomes the head coach of Los Angeles FC of Major League Soccer. Bradley, who is also a Princeton alum, has coached pretty much everywhere since leaving Princeton.

He actually left Princeton to take a change on MLS when it began, first as an assistant coach to Bruce Arena in Washington and then as the head coach in Chicago. He's coached the U.S. men's national team to the World Cup - winning the group championship in 2010 - and then the Egyptian national team when it needed a stable, steadying hand.

Neurosurgeons, by the way, don't have stabler, steadier hands than Bob Bradley.

His time in Egypt might not have ended up in the 2014 World Cup, but he came closer than anyone could have imagined. And, more than what happened on the field, he was there at a time of incredible political upheaval and general unrest, the kind that would have scared away basically anyone else.

From Egypt, Bradley went to Norway and France. Then, famously, he became the first American ever to be a head coach in the English Premier League, when he was the manager at Swansea for a short time.

TigerBlog last saw Bradley at a Princeton baseball game. His brother Scott, as you probably know, is Princeton's longtime baseball coach.

At the time, Bob Bradley seemed genuinely unsure of where his next stop would be. And now he knows. It'll be with the new MLS team in Los Angeles.

The franchise, which doesn't yet have any players, has sold 17,000 season tickets at Banc of California Stadium, which is currently being built near the Los Angeles Coliseum. Now it has a face of its franchise.

TigerBlog hasn't met too many people in his life who are more focused than Bob Bradley. It's probably why his career has been spent taking on extraordinary challenges.

And now he has his next one.

He certainly hasn't been afraid of much along the way, and TigerBlog doesn't even mean the terrifying situation he walked into in Egypt. By comparison, starting an MLS team from scratch seems sort of tame.

Bob Bradley is up for it though. He is boundless energy and passion to go along with his other qualities. You know. His ability to steer through choppy waters.

All of that will serve him well in Los Angeles.

The LAFC players are in good hands - even if there aren't any of them yet. 

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