Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 21
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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HOMESCHOOLING: U.S. men’s national soccer team head coach Bob Bradley runs a training session last week at Princeton’s Roberts Stadium in preparation for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. Bradley, a 1980 Princeton alum who was the head coach at his alma mater from 1984-95, relished coming home for the week-long training camp.

PU Soccer Rolled Out Welcome Mat, Hosting U.S. Squad for Training Camp

Bill Alden

It is tucked away in a corner of the Princeton University campus and students customarily hurry by without taking a second glance.

But last week, Roberts Stadium went from being the understated but state-of-the art home of Tiger soccer into the glare of international media attention as the U.S. Soccer men’s national team used the site for a week-long training camp in preparation for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa.

Students stopped and lingered to survey the scene as a daily army of 10-15 TV cameras and 40-50 journalists descended on the camp.

Local soccer luminaries and Princeton coaches and family members got to sit inside the stands and ring the field as the U.S. team went through its paces.

In the middle of the action on Myslik Field was U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, a former Princeton star player and head coach, who relished greeting old friends after the morning training sessions which featured scrimmaging, stretching, and culminated with fiendish timed runs that left the players gasping for air.

Bradley, a 1980 Princeton alum who was the head coach at his alma mater from 1984-95, felt very comfortable holding court in his old stomping grounds.

“I have friends and family around here,” said Bradley, whose practices became a family affair with son, Michael, on the field as a midfielder on the U.S. team, and brother, Scott, the PU baseball head coach, watching from the sidelines.

“Friends and family always keep you humble and grounded. I talk to Jimmy Barlow (former PU star under Bradley and current Tiger men’s soccer head coach) once a week and I talk to Manfred Schellscheid (former PU assistant and current Seton Hall head coach) once a week. When you have good friends, it helps even as you are preparing for something like the World Cup.”

Barlow helped hatch the idea of Princeton as a training site during his weekly dialogues with Bradley.

“The fact that they have two friendlies, or practice games, one in Connecticut and one in Philadelphia, made them want to train on the east coast,” said Barlow. “When I talked to Bob, we started investigating whether Princeton would work. We talked to Gary Walters (Princeton Director of Athletics) and he was very supportive.”

For Barlow, it meant a lot on both a personal and professional level that the U.S. team ultimately chose Princeton as the site for the camp.

“We are happy that they have chosen to use our facility for something so important,” said Barlow, noting that Roberts Stadium just opened in 2008.

“It certainly can’t hurt our program getting this kind of attention and publicity. We feel pretty good about how things have gone since we have built the stadium, two national TV games and an NCAA tournament game this fall and now this.”

Barlow and his players went out of their way to give the U.S. players and coaches personal attention to help the camp run like clockwork.

“All of us are trying to wear a lot of hats to make it run smoothly for them,” said Barlow. “We are doing little errands, moving goals, getting the volunteer staff in place to help with security, helping to move the chairs for press conferences, whatever they need.”

Princeton men’s soccer trainer Russ Steves has been working for months, taking care of logistical issues in connection with the camp.

“I think we started in March,” said Steves, who has worked as a liaison for such international teams as Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, and Inter Milan on U.S. tours.

“Most of the early work is hammering out a contract between Princeton and U.S. Soccer. We needed to learn what they want from us and then we figure out what we can do. Mostly that concerns what facilities they needed. Then it became just organizing volunteer workers, visitors to training, and making sure the field and stadium were set up the way U.S. Soccer wanted.”

Steves was in high gear this week, serving as the point man on site for Princeton.

“I might be picking up AV equipment for press conferences, hauling ice for player cold baths, lining up student volunteers, and handling the many, many requests to watch training,” said Steves, who spent much of his time darting around the field on a golf cart.

“My day usually started around 7 a.m. with people calling or texting me with requests to attend training. I arrived at Myslik Field around 8:30 with the team cruising in at about 9:45. I left the field usually around 2 p.m. then sorted through e-mail requests until about 8 p.m.”

For Barlow, hosting the camp was a labor of love that was well worth it. “We are really honored that they decided to come to Princeton and we wanted to make the experience as positive as it can be,” said Barlow.

Spending the week at Roberts Stadium turned out to be a positive experience for all concerned.

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