Idiots Guide To MLS Broadcasting

Idiots Guide To MLS Broadcasting

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 18, 2008
  • 22 Comments
  • Brad Feldman, Brad Sham, Bruce Arena, Christian Miles, ESPN, FSC, Glenn Davis, Greg Lalas, John Harkes, JP Dellacamera, Marcelo Balboa, Max Bretos, Sean Wheelock, Shep Messing, Steve Cangialosi

This is a subject near and dear to my heart due to my history of being in the broadcast world over the last few years. I’ve been working on coming up with some sort of guide for people for when it comes to who they will probably be listening to on a broadcast of a Major League Soccer game.

I’m going to be real honest about some broadcasters on this list. If you don’t like a broadcaster of your club or a national one, that’s fine. You can always voice your opinion below. Also, I just got to a point over the last few weeks of watching/listening to games that I felt I had to say something about some of these guys in one, long post and not in some short mention in a weekend recap or something like that.

Why am I doing this? Mainly because of my history in the broacast world and because I’ve done enough soccer broadcasting to understand what it takes to have a good duo on a call.

I will say this too, I didn’t find information on all clubs here. Some were real easy to find while one or two clubs I had real trouble. So if you know who does those games and have a clue about how good they are I want to hear it as well. And saying that, it also means I haven’t seen or heard everyone on this list. I’ve made an effort to but I know for the life of me I haven’t heard everyone. A good reason may be because there probably are more national broadcasts these days and on MLSnet.tv you tend to get the same clubs’ feeds over and over again.

For time purposes and my own sake since I don’t speak the language, no Spanish broadcasters are included on here. I hardly ever listen to those guys anyways if they are the only option for a MLS game. Usually my telly is on mute in those cases. One day I swear I will learn Spanish and actually listen though.

Let’s start with the big boys first. The national broadcasters.

ABC/ESPN/ESPN2- JP Dellacamera and John Harkes: Back before the season ESPN and ABC finally realized something. They knew Dave O’Brien, Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and Tommy Smyth just weren’t cutting it and fans were tired of the trio calling the games. What do they do? They moved O’Brien off soccer for good, put Stone in a studio role, booted Wynalda off their list and kept the Ol’ Onion Bag. They then brought back a duo from their 2006 World Cup broadcasts that most people really liked, JP and Harkes.

Some dislike this pairing but I would be willing to say that most rather listen to these two call a game than any other group or duo in ESPN/ABC history with MLS. I know I was happy to hear the World Wide Leader got it right with JP and Harkes. So far this season I have been able to enjoy all the Thursday night games plus the US national team games.

When those two are off or there is a double-header ESPN calls up Glenn Davis and Smyth. To me that is a solid back-up team.

HDNet- Glenn Davis and Marcelo Balboa: Most recall Balboa being with O’Brien back at the World Cup. Some reason ESPN/ABC loved that duo, I hated it and still do. But some reason I have liked the pairing with Davis for Balboa. I think its part that Davis knows how to call the game just as well as anyone else and he sounds fairly easy to work with. If you don’t get this channel don’t worry, not many people do yet.

Fox Soccer Channel – Max Bretos and Christopher Sullivan: FSC has a couple other reporters/hosts in their group as you can see with the photo to the right. But Bretos and Sullivan are the main duo that they use. From time to time they will bring on some other guys like Dave Johnson (who sound so much better) in place of Bretos.

For a channel dedicated to soccer I find they fail at getting a solid duo to call MLS games. Neither one really works well with one another and most fans will agree that Bretos is down right terrible to listen to. Some like him because he is terrible (yes, I have gotten emails from folks that listen to him because they know they will laugh at him) but the vast majority just down right hate listening to him. My biggest problem with Bretos is his over pronouncing of player names and his constant yelling the word “YES” when someone scores. Sullivan has an issue on sounding too foreign, which puts some people off. Nothing better to hear then mispronounce something and then yell at each other for it during a broadcast.

Are these guys the worst that cover the league? No. Thankfully they do actually know the game, which counts for something. But if you are like me or most people who have watched this league since it started you will get annoyed very easily by them.

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Now club-by-club. Mostly local broadcasts that I could find information on is presented here. If anything is incorrect please feel free to let me in on it as I do not see every local broadcast from each team here. I just want to present what I know and think.

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Chicago Fire:
WPWR Channel 50: Fred Huebner(left) and Chris Doran -This is one of those groups that I know very little about. Mainly because I don’t live in the Windy City or see their local games. But what I do know from some folks that live in the area, these two are a solid duo.

I’ve heard Huebner a couple times to know that he won’t get on your nerves too much in a game and Doran knows his stuff. They seem to work well together from what people in Chicago have told me. In that case, if they work well together it will come across in their broadcast. Believe me, it goes a long way.

Columbus Crew:
ONN: Dwight Burgess and Dante Washington/Bill McDermott – A lot of people dislike the Crew broadcast group. I was in that boat for a while, mainly because I couldn’t stand their color commentators (Washington/McDermott). Burgess isn’t bad though, I think if he were alone he would probably present a pretty good call. Thing is when he is sitting next two Washington or McDermott it brings his quality down a bid.

Washington is a little bland for me and McDermott can get on your nevers after a while. Thing is the Crew do have a solid broadcast of their games. It use to be CSN but is now back on ONN.

Some will be quick to say that they have the worst out there but I can tell you that isn’t the case. They tend to grow on you over time and before long you start to enjoy them a bit more. I know I have and do.

DC United:
Comcast SportsNet: Dave Johnson with Thomas Rongen (sometimes Tony Limarzi stans in for Johnson) – Probably one of my favorite broadcast groups in MLS. No coincidence here that it’s DC United’s broadcast either. Johnson may be one of my favorite broadcasters in sports, especially in soccer. You can’t deny he has the best goal call of anyone out there (“IT’S IN THE NET!”). Thomas Rongen is a pretty good partner to Johnson too.

What I’ve always enjoyed about Johnson is the fact that he knows the game very well. He also knows how to call a game very well too. There aren’t too many moments that he rambles on with Rongen or gets off track like a lot of broadcasters do. You almost never hear him have problems calling a goal or the play leading up to a goal. In other words he presents the game in a very likeable way for the listener.

Kansas City Wizards:
Metro Sports: Sean Wheelock with Bruce Arena – I know recently they brought on someone else with Wheelock to split time with Arena but I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. Wizard fan you can help me out on that one.

Anyways, Wheelock is one of the better broadcasters in MLS. Sad part is he is sometimes paired with Arena. You go from excitement in Wheelock to monotone in Arena. Look I love Bruce Arena as much as the next guy but he is not a top rate color commentator. I’d much rather see him in a studio setting if he is going to do TV.

One thing I do like about Wheelock, he usually seems a bit more balanced in his calls. Meaning he doesn’t just play favorites to the Wizards. I’m a bit surprised FSC hasn’t called him up by now but I guess he likes it in KC.

Edit: Thanks to Mike in the comments below for sending this in about the other color commentators for the Wizards games.

So it appears that when Arena isn’t doing a game (which is when the Wizards are at home), former head coach Bob Gansler will sit in the booth with Wheelock. And apparently, one game this season the ever colorful Eric Wynalda will fill the booth with Wheelock. Man that is a lot to keep up with for Wizard fans!

New England Revolution:
CSN New England: Brad Feldman and Greg Lalas – Okay, you either love this broadcast duo or you hate them. There rarely is a middle ground with these two. I don’t know if its the combination of the two or if one is sometimes a bigger douche bag than the other.

In all seriousness they are a good broadcast team that knows the game and knows the Revs very well. Their biggest problem is they are total homers to the Revs. Almost to the point where you can’t take it. Its more Feldman than Lalas but sometimes Lalas actually agrees with Feldman on things.

Lalas is an unique guy if you ask me. I hate his Extratime show on MLSnet but listening to him during a game totally fits him. I would even argue that he would be better off being a color commentator with someone else like a Dave Johnson or a Glenn Davis. I think sometimes his quality comes down sometimes because of Feldman.

New York Red Bulls:
MSG: Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing – Another group that you either like or love, mostly due to Messing. Once Dellacamera left MSG to go full-time with ESPN, it gave Cangialosi a chance to show his stuff. While sometimes his goal calls are a bit much he does a very good job presenting the game and even works well with Messing.

A lot of people have a problem with Messing because of how he speaks his mind. You know what, there isn’t a real problem with that. Thing is from time to time he says something that is just down right stupid and people lose all respect for him again. Believe me, I’ve been there. But for the most part I like him and can stand listening to him and Cangialosi. Like I said, they work well together and it shows in their broadcast.

Toronto FC:
CBC: Nigel Reed and Jason DeVos
Roges Sportsnet: Gerry Dobson and Craig Forrest

Now Toronto is a bit different and I could be wrong on it too. I know most of their games are on CBC but I did read that Rogers Sportsnet either has or had some broadcast rights. I’ve never listened to Rogers but I have with the CBC so I can at leat provide something.

A lot of people from what I’ve read and heard don’t like the CBC broadcast with Reed and DeVos. I’m not sure if its because they may sound too European or what. I didn’t have any real problems listening to them and actually enjoyed the first broadcast that I heard of them last year when BMO Field opened against KC. They didn’t seem to annoy me as much as some broadcasters and that is a good thing.

Chivas USA:
FSN West: Christian Miles(right) and Bernardo Osuna – Oh, another FSC reporter/broadcaster that people either can stand or really dislike. Christian Miles. I’ve met the guy and he seems nice and all but I still have trouble getting through a game that he calls. I honestly don’t know if I even recall what Osuna sounds like enough to give him any reviews here and that is probably because of Miles. He is one of those guys, like Bretos that can just get down right annoying after time.

He does know the game but his problem with trying to sound too-Latino can get right too you. I know he is doing Chivas games but there is no reason to sound over-Latino when there aren’t that many Latino players on the team.

To me, they are near the bottom of the list of groups I want to listen call a game.

Colorado Rapids:
Altitude TV: Jason Kosmicki (left) with  ? – Could anyone let me in on who calls the games with Kosmicki? Well, it doesn’t matter because whoever that is doesn’t know the game very well to begin with. A lot of people, and I mean a lot of people have problems with the Altitude broadcast. Mostly because of Kosmicki. If you listened to the last game against Toronto you will know why. Calling Toronto FC, Dallas a couple times; to calling Rohan Ricketts Jeff Cunningham a couple times (even on a goal call); to talking too much in the run of play before a goal (twice); to screaming about a foul that wasn’t a big deal. The list could go on and on here. I won’t get too nit-picky about it because I know a lot of Rapid fans won’t disagree with it.

Their broadcast really haven’t improved from last year or the year before. It use to be because they did studio broadcasts when the club was on the road, that is no longer the case. Even in the stadium the broadcasters can’t get the players right or even the teams right. I know there is a level of enthusiam that someone should have in calling sports and Kosmicki has it but his lack of knowledge on MLS really brings down the show.

FC Dallas:
FSN Southwest: Brad Sham and Dave Dir- Some people really love this duo and for some reason there are folks that dislike it. I’m honestly a fan of Sham and Dir, not because I’ve met the two a few times and think they are stand-up guys that know the game, teams, and players really well. I mainly think that because I believe they do a solid job at calling the games. Much like Comcast in DC, FSN Southwest does a good job because of the comination of Sham and Dir.

Houston Dynamo:
KTBU: Charlie Palillo and Glenn Davis – To be real honest, I don’t know enough about Palillo to give a fair review. I do know that I like Glenn Davis so I am willing to bet that this broadcast works and sounds fine. Any Houston locals can let me in on that a bit more. I mainly get national broadcasts of their games anyways or the road team feed.

LA Galaxy:
FSN West: Jim Watson and Mark Rogondino – I had to really think about this one. I know I’ve heard Watson and Rogondino before but due to the Galaxy having so many national-TV games these days I just had trouble with this one. Maybe that is a good thing and maybe it isn’t.

Real Salt Lake:
KSL-TV: ?? – Yeah, I did all I could to find who calls their games but came up short each time. It wouldn’t have really mattered anyways. I don’t think I’ve ever heard their home broadcast of any game that their club was in. RSL fan, please help us out on this one. Good or bad?

San Jose Earthquakes:
CSN Bay Area: John Shrader (right) and Troy Dayak – Another solid duo that knows the game, team, and players very well. I’ve liked Shrader since back in the Quake 1.0 days. Dayak seems to work well with Shrader as well, which as you can tell by this list it probably means their broadcast is going to be good. Some by the Bay may disagree but the few games I’ve heard about of these two I enjoyed enough to want more.

  • Mike

    Arena is supposed to be rotating with former Wizards coach Bob Gansler for the rest of this season. Gansler will be doing most of the home games while Arena will do most of the Wizards away games. Eric Wynalda will also be doing a game with Wheelock later this season. The rest of the time one of the Wizards PR people will be in the booth with Sean.<br />
    <br />
    Here's a write up I did on it when this was announced.<br />
    <a href="http://www.downthebyline.com/2008/05/arena-gansler-and-waldo-oh-my.html&quot; target="_blank"><a href="http://www.downthebyline.com/2008/05/arena-gansle…</a>" target="_blank">http://www.downthebyline.com/2008/05/arena-gansle…</a></a>

  • Drew Epperley

    thanks Mike. No wonder I had trouble keeping up with who did the Wizards games besides Arena. That's a few too many people to keep up with I think, especially if I were a Wizards fan. I will add that into this post Mike…thanks again!

  • bkupp

    Brad Feldman is the Revs' director of communications, or something like that, so it's no duh that he's a homer. In fact, the worst part of the Revs' broadcast is when Feldman and Lalas do their playful little arguments. Lalas is by far the better and is usually on the same page with Steve Nicol, whose thoughts they probe after the first 20+ of the match.<br />
    <br />
    The biggest problem for Rev fans is remembering who we used to have. Aidan Healey was very popular, but the early years had a great team of Seamus Malin and Derek Rae (who mysteriously had no silly accent then).

  • Gord

    In Canada we get no MLS game coverage unless the games involve TFC, which are all covered; about 40% CBC, 40% Rogers Sportsnet and 20% The Score, which picks up the local teams broadcast.<br />
    <br />
    CBC's broadcast team last year was Nigel Reed and Craig Forrest, but Mr Forrset left this year to do the Rogers Sportsnet games exclusively (I believe he was providing colour for both broadcasts last year). Jason De Vos only joined CBC in late May (?) this year, after he completed the season with Ipswich Town. So the colour guy for the first game at home last year, against KC was Craig Forrest.<br />
    <br />
    Between the games picked up on the Score, and watching other games on MLSNet, I have got to listen to alot of the local teams home broadcasts. I found the Houston broadcast June 8th somewhat annoying.<br />
    <br />
    Jarrod Smith came on for the second half, and while they announced the substitution correctly, they then proceeded to call him Brown for the rest of the game. Particularily disconcerting as there is noone named Brown on the TFC roster.

  • Arena is supposed to be rotating with former Wizards coach Bob Gansler for the rest of this season. Gansler will be doing most of the home games while Arena will do most of the Wizards away games. Eric Wynalda will also be doing a game with Wheelock later this season. The rest of the time one of the Wizards PR people will be in the booth with Sean.

    Here’s a write up I did on it when this was announced.
    http://www.downthebyline.com/2008/05/arena-gansler-and-waldo-oh-my.html

  • thanks Mike. No wonder I had trouble keeping up with who did the Wizards games besides Arena. That’s a few too many people to keep up with I think, especially if I were a Wizards fan. I will add that into this post Mike…thanks again!

  • ben

    Bill Riley (<a href="http://www.kall700sports.com/)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.kall700sports.com/)</a>" target="_blank">http://www.kall700sports.com/)</a></a> does the play by play on TV and radio. One reason you can't find info on it is that RSL games are rarely, if ever, televised locally. And when they are, they are on KSL's digital channel 5.3, NOT the main KSL channel 5 (the one that people can easily watch). It's a shame as Riley is REALLY good and knows a lot about the team (he does the radio &quot;RSL Coaches Show&quot; and weekly interviews with Garth Lagerwey among other things). I can't think of one color guy that stands out as doing all the games, it seems to be a revolving door. That said, I think Brian Dunseth probably does more of them than anyone. The two make a pretty solid team, especially for a smaller market.

  • ben

    PS-On the RSL thing, I believe they have a listen live link on the KALL 700 website. The radio and TV announcing is identical (it is a simulcast), and tonight's game wouldn't matter either way, since there is no local TV. So if you're curious on RSL's broadcasts, hit up the KALL link during the RSL/SJ game tonight (7 Mtn./9 Eastern).

  • bkupp

    Brad Feldman is the Revs’ director of communications, or something like that, so it’s no duh that he’s a homer. In fact, the worst part of the Revs’ broadcast is when Feldman and Lalas do their playful little arguments. Lalas is by far the better and is usually on the same page with Steve Nicol, whose thoughts they probe after the first 20+ of the match.

    The biggest problem for Rev fans is remembering who we used to have. Aidan Healey was very popular, but the early years had a great team of Seamus Malin and Derek Rae (who mysteriously had no silly accent then).

  • Kevin

    Regarding the Dynamo broadcasts, I am guessing Davis has been unavailable for alot of games. Brian Dunseth has been filling in for Davis even though Ty Keough was supposed to be working some games. Palillo is more than competent as a broadcaster. He does his research, knows the game and doesn't dominate the game with an over-the-top personality (Kosmicki!). He knows his role and allows the picture to tell the story and gives the necessary &quot;captioning&quot;. Heck, he even allows soccer calls on his daily radio show.

  • Jonathan

    KTBU has excellent coverage and commentary. Glenn Davis is outstanding. Charlie Pallio is an outstanding play by play commentator although I think he comes from a general sports background. He does his homework. He's like a walking encyclopedia on every sport. He's very sharp and I like his commentary. He works well with Glenn Davis but is just as good when Glenn isn't around. I think he taps into Glenn's experience and depth of knowledge.

  • Gord

    In Canada we get no MLS game coverage unless the games involve TFC, which are all covered; about 40% CBC, 40% Rogers Sportsnet and 20% The Score, which picks up the local teams broadcast.

    CBC’s broadcast team last year was Nigel Reed and Craig Forrest, but Mr Forrset left this year to do the Rogers Sportsnet games exclusively (I believe he was providing colour for both broadcasts last year). Jason De Vos only joined CBC in late May (?) this year, after he completed the season with Ipswich Town. So the colour guy for the first game at home last year, against KC was Craig Forrest.

    Between the games picked up on the Score, and watching other games on MLSNet, I have got to listen to alot of the local teams home broadcasts. I found the Houston broadcast June 8th somewhat annoying.

    Jarrod Smith came on for the second half, and while they announced the substitution correctly, they then proceeded to call him Brown for the rest of the game. Particularily disconcerting as there is noone named Brown on the TFC roster.

  • ben

    Bill Riley (http://www.kall700sports.com/) does the play by play on TV and radio. One reason you can’t find info on it is that RSL games are rarely, if ever, televised locally. And when they are, they are on KSL’s digital channel 5.3, NOT the main KSL channel 5 (the one that people can easily watch). It’s a shame as Riley is REALLY good and knows a lot about the team (he does the radio “RSL Coaches Show” and weekly interviews with Garth Lagerwey among other things). I can’t think of one color guy that stands out as doing all the games, it seems to be a revolving door. That said, I think Brian Dunseth probably does more of them than anyone. The two make a pretty solid team, especially for a smaller market.

  • ben

    PS-On the RSL thing, I believe they have a listen live link on the KALL 700 website. The radio and TV announcing is identical (it is a simulcast), and tonight’s game wouldn’t matter either way, since there is no local TV. So if you’re curious on RSL’s broadcasts, hit up the KALL link during the RSL/SJ game tonight (7 Mtn./9 Eastern).

  • Kevin

    Regarding the Dynamo broadcasts, I am guessing Davis has been unavailable for alot of games. Brian Dunseth has been filling in for Davis even though Ty Keough was supposed to be working some games. Palillo is more than competent as a broadcaster. He does his research, knows the game and doesn’t dominate the game with an over-the-top personality (Kosmicki!). He knows his role and allows the picture to tell the story and gives the necessary “captioning”. Heck, he even allows soccer calls on his daily radio show.

  • Jonathan

    KTBU has excellent coverage and commentary. Glenn Davis is outstanding. Charlie Pallio is an outstanding play by play commentator although I think he comes from a general sports background. He does his homework. He’s like a walking encyclopedia on every sport. He’s very sharp and I like his commentary. He works well with Glenn Davis but is just as good when Glenn isn’t around. I think he taps into Glenn’s experience and depth of knowledge.

  • Mrewers

    You are absolutely right about the Altitude broadcasts. Occasionally they have Marcelo Balboa co-call the game which makes it tolerable but they need to get rid of Kosmicki. That guy is aweful. He misses so much stuff during the game it seems like he doesn't even pay attention. Besides that he seems to know nothing about the game, the league, or the players on his own team. Its like he doesn't even have a list of names and numbers in front of him. Quite frankly I'd rather watch the game on mute, but at least it means I can watch Rapids games rather than following them on espn's or mls's online gamecasts.

  • Mrewers

    You are absolutely right about the Altitude broadcasts. Occasionally they have Marcelo Balboa co-call the game which makes it tolerable but they need to get rid of Kosmicki. That guy is aweful. He misses so much stuff during the game it seems like he doesn’t even pay attention. Besides that he seems to know nothing about the game, the league, or the players on his own team. Its like he doesn’t even have a list of names and numbers in front of him. Quite frankly I’d rather watch the game on mute, but at least it means I can watch Rapids games rather than following them on espn’s or mls’s online gamecasts.

  • Sean

    I'm not a big fan of John Harkes, but only because when he calls United games, it's obvious he goes out of his way to seem unbiased by saying uncalled fouls against United are good calls, or that united never deserves to win.<br />
    <br />
    it annoys the crap out of me.

  • Sean

    I’m not a big fan of John Harkes, but only because when he calls United games, it’s obvious he goes out of his way to seem unbiased by saying uncalled fouls against United are good calls, or that united never deserves to win.

    it annoys the crap out of me.

  • pattie

    In Houston, Charlie Palillo is the go to guy for sports. He knows his stuff and is often considered the intellectual host. I have listened to him for years, followed him to different radio stations. He may not talk about sports much during his radio show on the Sports Animal 790, but he does a pretty good job on the Dynamo tv play by play.

  • pattie

    In Houston, Charlie Palillo is the go to guy for sports. He knows his stuff and is often considered the intellectual host. I have listened to him for years, followed him to different radio stations. He may not talk about sports much during his radio show on the Sports Animal 790, but he does a pretty good job on the Dynamo tv play by play.