Friday, June 14, 2019

1.53 Meters

By now you probably are aware of the controversy, such as it is, around the U.S. women's team at the World Cup.

The Americans (TigerBlog actually first wrote "the Tigers" out of reflex) opened the World Cup with a 13-0 win over Thailand in what was the largest blowout in the history of the men's or women's tournament. The issue wasn't how many goals the U.S. scored; it was the way the team celebrated them long after the game was way, way out of reach.

The backlash came from all over, with some defenders mixed in.

For TigerBlog, he thinks that almost anything goes in the World Cup. This isn't a mismatch in a college or high school game. This is the World Cup.

Remember, goal differential could become a tiebreaker at some point. So score as many as you can.

Ah, but as he said, almost anything goes. If you've scored your first World Cup goal, then yes, that's a reason to celebrate. If you've been there before, score and then go line up and keep playing. The excess celebrating is unfortunate.

That would be the case for men or for women too. TB saw some comments, including from U.S. head coach Jill Ellis, that the question wouldn't be asked on the men's side. TB disagrees with that.

Then again, he still clings to the fleeting hope that there will always be a place for something called "good sportsmanship" on the highest levels of competition.

When it comes to soccer on the world stage, TigerBlog trusts Grant Wahl more than anyone else. Grant is a Princeton alum and former Office of Athletic Communications student-worker who is probably the foremost soccer writer in the world these days.

He wrote THIS for

Someone who disagreed with him was Diana Matheson, another Princeton alum. Diana played soccer at Princeton and was a first-team All-America on the Tigers' 2004 NCAA Final Four team.

These days, Diana is doing Canadian TV, and she was part of a discussion with three other women who were all in agreement that the Americans should not have celebrated the way they did.

So, to sum it up, TB agreed with Grant about the score and Diana about the celebrating.

As for Diana Matheson, she needs to be in the conversation among the greatest women athletes in Princeton history and especially in the conversation for the most accomplished Princeton athletes beyond just their college careers.

When you think in those terms, you think immediately of Ashleigh Johnson, the women's water polo goalie who won an Olympic gold medal as a Princeton undergrad. Certainly she is either at or near the top of that list.

So is Caroline Lind, the women's open rower who won two Olympic gold medals. TB would have them 1-2.

But Matheson's post-Princeton career was also extraordinary.
Matheson made 203 appearances for the Canadian national team, including in the World Cup and the Olympics. In fact, she won two Olympic bronze medals, including when she scored the game-winner in the third-place game in the 2012 Games. She also won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games.

What makes Matheson's international success even more impressive is that she is not exactly tall. In fact, she is barely more than five-feet, or, as her Wikipedia page says, 1.53 meters. In an international game that values physical presence, Matheson was able to use her skill, her field vision, her incredible fitness and her desire to become one of the most successful players of all time.

If you forgot the 2004 Princeton team, by the way, the Tigers became the only Ivy League team ever to reach the Final Four in women's soccer, an accomplishment that still stands. The 2017 Tigers came close, reaching the quarterfinals.

Matheson still ranks second all-time in assists at Princeton, a testament to her ability to see the field. More than stats, though, Matheson at Princeton was what she became internationally - a stabilizing force and calming influence in any situation.

For this World Cup, she is part of the Canadian TV crew.

When TB saw the clip of her after the first game for the U.S., it reminded him of her time at Princeton and what a great player she was here. And after she left.

In fact, she's one of the best Princeton has ever produced. Without a doubt.

1 comment:

Tad La Fountain '72 said...

It's a lot easier to understand the Americans' exuberance at the World Cup than it is to watch Nadal flopping on the clay after the French Open...for the 12th time. Makes me appreciate Arthur Ashe's style of winning even more. At least in soccer you can't drop the ball before you cross into the end zone a la DeSean Jackson - the all-time low bar for scoring celebrations.