5 Ways ESPN Can Improve Soccer Coverage

Update: After reading our piece, ESPN has elected not to comment.

I got to thinking about this topic the other day on a trail run of mine.

I could have used an hour long documentary on this experience...

For those of you new to TSG, in a former life, I was the fact checker for the late Peter Jennings at World News Tonight on ABC (a great education in all ways), was an assistant on some news shows and then eventually got into the Web world through working for CNBC.

The amalgamation of experience, specifically the analytical addition of having reporting and metrics available through the web, has shaped my perception of what media is. That web move have prepared me for the world of interactivity and always-on data streaming that we see today in sport and across other news outlets.

Make it happen with soccer ESPN...

With these thoughts in mind, last week my mind drifted to ways that ESPN can improve their soccer coverage leading up to the World Cup and beyond.

First, you can already argue that ESPN’s cash and effort outlay outweighs the financial rewards on their bottom line. I think that one is easy to see.

ESPN has made some great soccer specific strides. Some of these are phenomenal: the ever-mentioned addition of Martin Tyler to add sophistication to the soccer broadcast this summer, the addition of hard-to-find games to the program at ESPN360.com, and the integration of soccer scores on ESPN’s homepage.

By and large, we’re a fan of how ESPN has chosen to be on the vanguard of new media.

There is more they can do though…and here are some idea. Note, TSG reached out to ESPN for comment, however and somewhat ironically they are still working on feedback.

Madden, visionary on football and audience...

5) Pick up the telestrator

In sports, with a ball, say football, where there is an interaction of players with movement creating opportunities, the addition of the telestrator in the 1950s and the subsequent expert use by John Madden drastically improved game understanding and interaction with fans.

The un-interruptive nature of the soccer does not allow for the ease of the telestrator display, however there is no reason that ESPN can’t consider a box-in-box telestrator OR devote an area of Soccernet to in-game telestration. Soccernet already has textual game commentary and statistical in-game datafeeds, why not a telestator addition?

It would allow thousands of casual fans to learn the sport.

4) Introduce more contemporary personalities.

In a manner of speaking, both Tommy Smyth and Alexei Lalas are great. The former’s signature “bulge in the onion bag” and the latter’s somewhat hyperbolic and controversial lip add much needed color to the game.

However, the former last played a game in the 1970′s and the latter last played a game for his national side in 1998, meaning if you assume that the average little kid soccer fan starts paying attention to the game and understanding it when they’re in 4th grade or age 8 (that’s just my inflection point), then any soccer fan who is younger than 20 likely doesn’t remember the contributions or identify with the stature of each individual.

I’m not suggesting that ESPN rid itself of such announcers; I’m suggesting they sprinkle in some other personalities, like a Jimmy Conrad or Taylor Twellman after their retirements.

We're 80 days from the World Cup and Frankie Hedjuk still gets press for a roster spot on Soccernet

3) Make some drastic improvements to Soccernet

This is something that TSG can comment on as an expert. Here are some of our issues to solve:

» Lack of consistent navigation. When ESPN introduced their World Cup pages they changed around all of the navigation that the user can become accustomed to without so much as a warning. They failed Internet Usability 101.

» Stop the merry-go-round of freelancers. Look, there are costs to staff (salary, human resources, etc.), but part of the reason any reader comes to a publication is that they like a writer or a certain tone. In the last 4 months, beyond losing some of it’s regulars, ESPN Soccernet readers have been subjected to just-plain-wrong fare from writers–like Leander Schaerlaeckens referencing Brad Evans inclusion on the senior side in the midfield, to introducing the Soccer Power Index but failing to follow-up. Where the heck has that gone?!

» Increase the frequency and accuracy of updates to the site. The TSG community helped shame ESPN into updating their World Cup roster a few weeks back…that was still being promoted though it was from October and referenced players with zero shot of actually making the World Cup roster. So what did they do? They replaced it with inaccurate information again. Not acceptable.

Maybe we an get the ESPN360 (killer product) crew over to Soccernet for some triage...

2) Profile players, overseas and in MLS, during the season

ESPN actually wrote the playbook on this one and it’s a no-brainer. One way that ESPN has driven interest in peripheral sports programming, like Poker and Bowling, is to develop the personalities of the competitions. I now know more about Phil Helmuth than I ever wanted to, but, you know what, it creates an opinion about him (in TV it’s called a “Q rating”) whenever he’s on. So I pay attention and watch.

In broadcasting school they teach you if you’re a sports broadcaster to, “have people hate you or love you, but don’t have them have no opinion.”

Soccer abroad and at home has personalities, personalities that are not established and who would benefit, from future sponsorship deals, from having exposure on ESPN. Overseas, Stu Holden, who is still getting established, or Jay DeMerit, established through hard knocks, have both the charisma and the story behind them to make them interesting. A little bit of air time and they’ll be hocking more than Mexican lottery tickets.

What about a Beckerman Cribs episode?

At home, what about a player like Kyle Beckerman? A career MLSer and member of the USSF farm system, who is now a champion and involved in many charities.

You help make casual fans care by developing a rapport with the players who play the game so that it drives folks back. It’s the ESPN way or the Food Network way if you prefer. (In the comment section so as to not belabor here I’ll talk about how this impacts sponsorship.)

1) How about a Game of the Week?

When I worked at NBC, we put a lot of promotional muscle behind the Movie of the Week. It was a destination event, one where people could chat about online later or talk about around that metaphoric water cooler. There were contests and ancillary content and whole heck of a lot of advertising.

It was phenomenally possible.

That happens with the broadcast networks already with the game of the week across different sports leagues.

Barca v. Chivas exhibition game at the 'Stick in San Francisco last August...imagine if this game counted for something!

Heck, it even happens at TSG…and at the Guardian!

ESPN should take this, author a slot on ESPN or ESPN 2 and host a true game of the week.

Now here’s the tricky part–you can’t just make it a MLS game, not that you would want to and you need to be cognizant of the time zones.

Nope, make it a college game, make it an EPL game that you overpay for, make it a Champ’s League game (yes I know the rights are currently lost for ESPN on this one). But pay up for one game here and there with the stipulation that it needs to occur at a time that you set for it.

Here’s how you do it…just like the NFL plays in London, work with leagues to split costs with teams to play on an East Coast city. This introduces say Rangers and Celtic or better Inter and A.C. to a new audience with the promotional might behind ESPN.

After rights are secured, build content for a whole week around the game about the players, the city, the fans, the stadium, etc….but again….keep that game at the same time slot….so fans can talk about it online or the next day at the water cooler.

Come to think of it, just hire TSG.

But seriously can you imagine Arsenal v. Chelsea at Red Bull Arena?

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54 responses to this post.

  1. Easily one of the best pieces I’ve come across on this site in a long time (everything is good — this is just special). ESPN and soccer haven’t been mixing too well of late — their coverage is downright perfunctory. I’ve come to the conclusion that the site realizes it’s not going to make money off the World Cup (sans television coverage) so they are just going through the motions of running soccernet. Simply put, the four letter network is playing the game of “How bad can we be before good blogs catch on?”

    Don’t even waste your time writing for soccernet. This site is already way better, sir. I promise you that.

    P.S. This article probably just won the top spot in The Rundown. I NEVER comment. Look what you made me do, Matthew!

    Reply

  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/22 at 10:00 PM

    What a great compliment — thanks — if we end up getting hired we’ll earmark your signing with a signing bonus — it’ll go down something like this:

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jon C on 2010/03/22 at 10:23 PM

    Great article, Matthew.

    I think this has been mentioned on the site before, but ESPN really should put together a highlight show of some sort. Ideally there would be one for MLS/American Soccer and then Europe/Champion’s League. For one this would be a great way to draw in casual fans who simply don’t have the time to sit down and watch a random game. In addition, a highlight show would be the perfect mechanism to display the player/coach personalities you talked about above. I’m thinking an Inside the NFL type show that includes interviews and features on some of the star players. Heck, if you could get the field mic’d like they do on HBO that would be fantastic.

    I’m not a huge Lalas fan, but I think he would be perfect for a highlight show; he’s more tolerable in small doses and he would bring some entertainment to the highlights. Maybe have…I dunno, Brian Kenny as the host?

    Any thoughts?

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    • I’m totally amazed at the lack of original soccer programming on FSC and ESPN. ESPN I think would be wise to have an American Soccer show, focusing on the MLS, USMNT, and Americans abroad that could work year round, as well as a show about Europe. I would advise FSC to do the same thing, as Fox Soccer Report ends up being a bit too broad without the analysis American soccer fans want, and as much as I can like FFF, it is only once a week and get get dominated by dumb callers.

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      • Yup, we need a US version of “Match of the Day”. Extended highlight of each match about 5 or 6 minutes worth depending on whether it was a dull dreary 0-0 or a 5-4 barnstormer.

        Unfortunately, I suspect there would be a rights issue in using so much footage unless the broadcaster actually owned the rights.

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  4. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/22 at 10:34 PM

    I have a couple of suggestions for improved soccer coverage on ESPN (actually on any TV broadcast)

    If the ball is in play it should NEVER be out of frame. We don’t need to see reaction shots of the crowd on routine plays. We don’t need to see the guy who just passed it, long after the ball has gone. We certainly don’t need to see the coach AGAIN. The exceptions are if someone falls injured, or there’s a fight or something really unusual going on off the ball.

    Just show the play. As a bonus, if you could anticipate the action just a little bit, it would enhance the broadcast immensely. When a pass is made, don’t concentrate on where the ball was – instead focus on where it’s going and on what the opposing players are doing to get ready for it.

    When there’s a goal kick, I do not need to see the goalkeeper’s foot striking the ball. It’s the most cliched image of all, and it shows almost nothing. You can’t see where he kicked it, how high, or to whom. All you know is that he kicked it. BFD.

    At the kickoff, is there any value in seeing just the ball on the midfield spot and 4 legs? I don’t think so. Yet nearly every broadcast does this.

    Show the manager only at the beginning of the game, at the end, if he’s counseling a substitute, or if he’s arguing about some decision that’s been made or not made. If he’s sitting there watching the action impassively, I don’t care to watch him doing that. I’d rather watch, you know, the game, than the dullard in a suit on the sideline.

    Stop zooming in so tight on the player with the ball that the camera whipsaws back and forth to keep the play in frame. I get nausea sometimes trying to watch some broadcasts. Just pull out a little bit so that you can see the player with the ball, his teammates running to open spots, and the defenders trying to get organized. Save the extreme closeups for the replays which will make much more sense when we know what happened.

    As commentators, for God’s sake, stop remarking disapprovingly that some player only has a handful of goals, especially when he’s a defender. The number of goals scored is just not a relevant statistic unless that player makes a habit of scoring on set pieces in the opponent’s area. If you insist upon doing this, you might as well start counting the tackles made by strikers. It’s pointless, and it doesn’t make you sound knowledgeable.

    Finally (for now) stop repeating the canard that a two-goal lead is the “most dangerous lead in soccer.” Bullshit. The only team that wouldn’t wish for a two-goal lead is the one that already has a three-goal lead. This is another bit of ‘punditry’ that makes you sound foolish. Enough, already.

    Just do everything I ask and I’ll be a happy, happy man. Is that so much to ask?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/22 at 10:37 PM

      Matt — it seems like you’ve “needed” this column for awhile. I hope it is therapeutic for you. :>

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/22 at 10:39 PM

        And…on that two goal lead completely agree. Who the f*ck doesn’t want a two goal lead…agreed.

        It’s not dangerous…being down 2-0 in stoppage time…that’s dangerous.

        In fact, I’m adding this to our soccer cliches at the bottom of this page…betcha you didn’t know that we are compiling these (number 1 by the way “plies their trade” ARGH!)

        http://theshinguardian.com/nicknames/

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      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/22 at 10:53 PM

        Was it that obvious? Yeah, I guess it was. :)

        I’ve been stewing about this for a long time.

        Oh, one other thing that bothers me a lot. People who use phrases that are not natural to them.

        Christian Miles, stop saying “under the cosh” and “on the back foot” You sound like a proper tool.

        OK, no more crankiness – for now.

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/22 at 10:56 PM

          I’ll add one more that’s still been troubling.

          I’ll forgive John Harkes a few, but…

          How in the world do you call Gooch “Oneywu Oguchi” — how do you make that mistake…forgot what game it was….

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        • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/22 at 11:02 PM

          All announcers have brain farts now and again. My favorite one ever is when Jack Buck (Joe’s dad) was announcing a Redskins game years ago. He was talking about Herb Mul-Key and he said “It says here that he went to No-Knee college” (phonetically)

          His broadcast partner, after an uncomfortable pause, said “Er, Jack, that’s “College: None.”

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/23 at 6:28 AM

          That is a hilarious call out regarding Christian Miles – it’s like he thinks that if he uses English football phrases, he’ll sound knowledge and be accepted, but you’re 100% right, he sounds like a right c***. He winds me up as much as Bobby McMahon and Tommy Smyth. I feel that their analysis doesn’t provide any added value – they either agree with the ‘resident ex-pro’ or regurgitate something from the paper (that we all have access too).

          I was wondering whether you’re confusing Tommy Smyth with the Liverpool legend Tommy Smith? If you weren’t I apologise.

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        • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/23 at 7:18 AM

          I think he was referring to Tommy Smyth (“wid a ‘Y’” as he used to say) the man who does color commentary on ESPN, mostly on champions league broadcasts.

          He’s got his schtick, and he rarely offers much of value, but I don’t notice him because I tune him out almost immediately the broadcast begins. He, and many other commentators, go crazy over flashy, but ultimately ineffective, moves and don’t pay any attention to solid, boring, effective play that actually wins games. I leave the sound on because I like the crowd noise, but that’s about it.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/23 at 7:29 AM

          The only reason I asked was because of the comment about playing in the 1970s – Smyth played in a Mickey Mouse League, whereas Smith played in the great Liverpool sides that won Leagues and European Cups.

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  5. Can I vehemently agree with you on Soccernet’s usability? As a graphic/web designer browsing soccernet often has me agitated beyond belief. “Ok, so I was looking at the Premier League but I wanted to see Champions League…and that’s in Europe so it’s under the Europe menu I guess? Wait, where’d the Europe menu go?”

    tangent: everybody ‘fess up: who else lied on the first page you hit the first time you go to Soccernet and told them you were in Europe?

    As a whole I think you’re spot on, and on the plus side it does seem like ESPN is putting a LOT of cash towards the World Cup this summer and I imagine will be attempting to sustain some of that interest into the start of the European seasons in the fall. I’ve noticed that we are starting to see the Premiership and Champions League edge into Plays of the Day, also a good sign.

    I love the idea of either loving or hating a sports personality. In ESPN’s other sports coverage there are absolutely guys that I love and hate, but in soccer other than Lalas there’s no one that really seems to have a strong enough viewpoint to have an opinion on. I find Harkes mildly annoying at times, that’s about it. In that department I think Fox Soccer is actually ahead of the game, love him or hate him Wynalda loves to put his two cents out there.

    As a whole it feels like the pieces are coming into place for ESPN to really start delivering soccer content to the masses. Let’s hope they deliver (and hire some better writers while they’re at it).

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/22 at 11:29 PM

      cfig — that was my number one issue — absolutely poor…

      So why is Soccernet not improving it’s soccer coverage like ESPN TV proper? Hopefully we’ll get a response from ESPN…

      Reply

    • I’d love to see ESPN channel Sky Sports’s FanZone where season ticket holders get to call the games as if they were Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, and while this usually devolves into pedantic screaming matches when their teams cross the halfway line, it brings a human aspect to it. Put me and Dan from the Free Beer Movement in a booth and you may or may not get top class commentary throughout the match, but it’ll be a more enjoyable experience than listening to Dave O’Brien mmhhmmm-ing Balboa’s continued celebration of taking a dive to earn free kicks (great thing for our youngsters to hear by the way).

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      • I seem to rarely catch FanZone as I don’t know when it usually airs, but when I do happen to watch it’s lots of fun. Something about hearing totally biased commentary just reeks of entertainment value.

        “C’mon lads! YESS! NOOOooo! Oh that was shocking. Just disgraceful, I dunno what he was thinking there.”

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  6. Totally agree on the design of Soccernet. The content on it is pretty fantastic, it’s just a pain in the ass to have to track everything down. The other thing I would love to see Soccernet do is add more commentary. If you listen to all the ESPN Soccernet podcasts you some really fantastic commentary and analysis, but it is rare to find on the actual website.

    As for Sportscenter, I find it very interesting with soccer. Some of the anchors (Elliott, Bucchigross, Bob Ley) are informed about the game and treat it with respect, but others still treat it like its a joke, which angers me to no end.

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    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/23 at 5:00 PM

      Don’t get me started on Sportcenter. The last time I watched sportscenter was also the first time I heard this… “Now on to our ESPN Deportes update” “Thank you (starts to speak in spanish as she shows soccer highlights from El Tri and Mexican League) now back to you” Then that was the only thing they had about soccer the whole show. Five minutes long? No, probably not even 2-3 minutes long.

      Another things that has drived me crazy is the way they call themselves the worldwide leader in sports. As a soccer fan you know that CAN’T be true because they don’t care about the world’s favorite sport. As an American with family in countries like Mexico, I know that ESPN doesn’t exist in many countries. (I say many because I’m not 100% sure that it ONLY exists in the US, but I’m pretty certain of it.) Therefore they can’t be the worldwide leader in sports. Sky Sports dominates from what I’ve seen and heard.

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  7. Posted by Swa on 2010/03/22 at 11:42 PM

    The most important improvement is the website as a whole. In general, ESPN has in my opinion the best website around for following the other sports that I enjoy the most (MLB, NFL, NCAA BBall), and I rarely if ever rely on sources other than The Worldwide Leader for information, with a few blogs offering differences on the opinion front. When it comes to the beautiful game, I am strictly Goal.com and TSG, with the exception of Soccernets quality in-game commentary (not better than shaun’s by any means but provided for many many more games and updates without having to refresh). Soccernet just does not break the same number of stories, recap enough games, provide enough depth of coverage to leagues that aren’t the Prem, have nearly the stable of writers that ESPN has for other sports, and although they might have started to with SPI, don’t have the Rob Neyer/John Hollinger stat geek that opens your eyes to players whose contributions and value to the team you might have missed if they didn’t score. Obviously that last part is quite difficult in footy but even 10 years ago did anyone think the statistical revolution would be where it’s at in baseball, a sport that already gave more credence to numbers than just about any other. Now that would be a fresh perspective and one that could only be found on ESPN.com if they decided to pursue it. So basically what they need to do is analyze which other sports get the most traffic on their site, and specifically which areas of those sports’ webpages, and model Soccernet after them. And get the best writers. Pay Simmons $5 mil a year to only write about soccer if you have to. I wouldn’t call him one of their best writers by a long shot and it might offend purists, but the man has a svengali effect on 13+ year old males that cannot be denied.

    There’s a lot in there, but it’s all pretty simple, and falls under the category of PUT A BIT OF EFFORT INTO IT.

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  8. Leander Schaerlaeckens reported (I’m paraphrasing) that Michael Bradley “neutralized Wesley Sneijder” in the Netherlands game. LOL if anyone didn’t have Sneijder as their man of the match, they don’t understand soccer. It is possible to make huge contributions to the game without consistently getting close to the goal. Just look at Carlos Valderamma. Leander Schaerlaeckens is a joke of a replacement for Ives and Co.

    On a side note I am enjoying their World Cup 101 although the article “the eliminator” which used a bunch of arbitrary statistics to determine that Italy was going to win was terrible. They were saying stuff like no team that has had the Netherlands in their group has ever advanced so Denmark can’t win. Or, no CONCACAF, African, and Asian team has ever won the World Cup, so none of those teams will win. By this logic doesn’t it mean that since no team has ever won a World Cup in Africa, that no team will win this year?

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    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/23 at 6:37 AM

      “Statistically” since 1970, Italy has got to every 3rd World Cup Final. 2010 is not their year!

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 6:43 AM

      Evan:

      I agree with you — it is a huge disservice to bring in a writer with less than 6 months to go to the World Cup who is not an expert on the subject matter. It really is.

      I know I’ve mentioned the column a number of times…but how is it anything less than a slap in the face to Joe American Soccer fan to be discussing the team with completely erroneous facts and information.

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    • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/23 at 7:11 AM

      Yeah, I’ll chime in with a ‘me too’ post. It’s a step back.

      I have to say, though, that we’re much further along than we used to be in the coverage of soccer in the US, so I have a hard time complaining too much. We all know it could be a lot better, but progress will come steadily, if a bit slowly for our liking.

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  9. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/23 at 6:53 AM

    I think the problem for ESPN is that most people (I know at least) follow the Prem and UCL which gets very good coverage on FSC. So, being realistic, how are they going to compete with that seeing as they don’t want to spend the necessary money outside of the World Cup? Somebody mentioned that there are other good leagues in Europe and South America, not to mention the domestic MLS. I think it would be great having a MLS game of the week that actually gets advertised – I hardly see / hear any media ads for MLS. There are many football fans who look down on the domestic game and prefer to support an European team – maybe MLS in tandem with ESPN can promote the local team? A better MLS round up with decent analysts rather than people reading from the auto-cue would be a start.

    Regarding the site, I hardly even visit it for football – tried a few times and just don’t bother anymore unless somebody mentions a specific article…

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  10. Posted by Timmy on 2010/03/23 at 7:30 AM

    Great article. I agree with all the comments. As an example of ESPN’s lack of drive to advertise the beautiful game, it was a shame for me to turn on ESPN this past Saturday afternoon only to realize that ESPN was showing the Real Madrid v Sporting match and I was only able to catch the last 5 minutes of the game since I had no knowledge they changed their schedule to show the La Liga match on Saturday rather than Sunday. There was very little (if any) advertising for this, but I sure know the NFL draft is on a Thursday this year and is only 8 weeks away (sarcastically saying). The NFL draft is the most boring show on earth.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 10:12 AM

      Totally right Timmy. It’s a shame as well because that what a Twitter feed is for and instead Soccernet is just formulaic on directing you to their website for traffic to their stories.

      They need to increase their input in….

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  11. I thought I was the only one who noticed the Soccernet/USA change. Pissed me off.

    AND THEN THEY GO AND LET JEN CHANG LEAVE! He’s the only reason I would ever check soccernet. He’s blog were quality. Where ever Jen goes, I’ll follow.

    Every notice how Soccernet/USA never has any recent articles? Lame. Really. I’m done feeling neglected.

    TSG, welcome to my bookmarks and RSS feed. Soccernet, check you later.

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  12. Posted by JohnnyF on 2010/03/23 at 10:19 AM

    Loved or hated but never indifferent? Two words, one man, a million metaphors: Ray Hudson.

    I love Ray Hudson. His goal descriptions are simply beyond. Always original and outlandish and often poetic. As someone who’s followed soccer very closely since the 80s, I always learn something from Ray. But for the uninitiated who might not get the subtleties of soccer (see photo caption of soccer player with ball at his feet from The Onion: “APPARENTLY SOCCER PLAYER JUST DID SOMETHING GOOD”) Hudson also has an ability to demystify the game.

    Imagine Hudson doing World Cup broadcasts? Okay, maybe not Brazil/Portugal or even US/England but stick him in the booth for Switzerland/Chile or Denmark/Cameroon. I could see his goal calls edited into Sportscenter’s opening montage. His passion for the beauty and even the terrible or “cynical” would get people’s attention. He could become the Howard Cosell of soccer in America.

    Not signing Ray was ESPN’s biggest mistake.

    Here’s a clip of the best of Ray

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 10:21 AM

      You know — thanks JohnnyF — I think we’ll make this a column — send us your favorite goal goals of all time and we’ll make it it’s own story.

      Thanks for the idea.

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    • Posted by Stiggity on 2010/03/24 at 9:10 AM

      Haha. Thanks for posting this. I love Ray Hudson and miss having GolTV to watch him call Barcelona games. The man absolutely loves Lio Messi. My favorite quote from him about Messi: “All that’s missing from his name is an A and an H.”

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  13. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/23 at 10:37 AM

    Some of what you suggest is already done on ESPN Deportes. For example, they already have a weekly series on the Mexican National Team focusing on a specific player every week who is trying to make it to the WC. In fact, the last episode will focus on JFT and his attempt to make it on the USMNT. Thus, they know how to promote soccer on some level, but refuse to do so on their English-speaking channels.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 10:57 AM

      Actually thanks for the info Bob…I think this is a good thing…IFF ESPN is testing out things on Deportes and then going to port (couldn’t resist) them over to ESPN proper.

      Got a good link to their content or I’ll look for it.

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      • Posted by Dave on 2010/03/23 at 6:52 PM

        I doubt things from Deportes will come over to ESPN English. ESPN Deportes is oriented to a fan base with a much higher percentage of folks who follow soccer.
        As to the US page of Soccernet, it has become worthless. I could probably get more news about US soccer players from Univisión and Telemundo, and they know their viewers are primarily Mexican diaspora.
        Not to mention that I stopped going to the site after it kept dumping me to an image that said something like x days to the world cup and no indication how to get past that into the story links, not that those were useful once I got to them.

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      • Posted by Bob on 2010/03/23 at 8:09 PM

        The show is called Frente al Reto which according to Google translates as “set against the challenge.” Here is a link to their deportes site which has a free archive of all the past shows (of course it helps if you speak Spanish lol). The JFT story will air next week and is the final installment of the show (and it is listed as a spotlight on “Gringo” Torres which I guess he prefers now).
        http://espndeportes.espn.go.com/videohub/video/clipDeportes?categoryid=958303&cc=3888

        Also, here is a link to a L.A. Times article that discusses the series (it was posted in Feb.).
        http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/08/entertainment/la-et-deportes-reto8-2010feb08

        Enjoy … and be jealous… be very jealous…:-)

        Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/23 at 8:53 PM

          Gringo torres is what he’s called south of the border. Or atleast as far as I can tell. My uncle has no clue who paco or jose fransisco torres is but he knows gringo torres.

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    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/23 at 5:21 PM

      Thanks a million. If anybody has ever heard me say that my favorites commentating is from goltv Ray Hudson is who I’m talking about. I didn’t know his name, but I recognized the voice immediatly.

      Reply

  14. ESPN Soccernet is pretty much over. Whoever tweeted that TSG is required reading was absolutely right. I, for one, spend way too much time here and may have to sue to pay for treatment of my TSG-refresh induced carpal tunnel syndrome.

    I so wholeheartedly agree with Matt Mathai’s comments that It feels like we’re sharing one brain. One more shot I’d like to see far more is a high-shot from behind the goal. That can tell you more about how tactics are unfolding than any other but you rarely see it in television coverage – I mean, how hard is it to put a static camera up there that covers the entire field of play?

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/03/23 at 12:12 PM

      I’m sure between us we could come up with one brain.

      I LOVE the view from high up behind a goal. You see attacks building and defenses organizing very clearly.

      I haven’t done it i a while, but I think I’ll wander into the upper decks at RFK stadium this year. Sec 409, here I come!

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/23 at 12:58 PM

        Back in the day, the BBC used to use the crane shot on FA Cup final day sporadically. It was great, especially when the in-house expert would talk through the sequence and the viewer could see *exactly* what he was talking about – without the use of silly gimmicks.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 1:09 PM

          Seriously — this would be such a great angle and gimmick of it in itself…for example, give a kid the controls for two minutes and have them able to zoom in somewhere but limit height position, etc from the camera.

          And make the blimp/balloon/floating thing in the likeness of a great player…who wouldn’t want a floating likeness of Pele’s noggin looking down in Red Bull stadium…

          Reply

  15. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/23 at 11:05 AM

    Thanks for the compliment Tuesday.

    Great idea on the camera angle…(and then add that telestrator in above it).

    They could use the tether cameras they do in the NFL…or they could float one of those drone blimps (and do a content for someone to win a shot piloting it…I digress).

    But imagine if the blimp could float over the fans so that the songs could be heard better.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/23 at 5:24 PM

    I’d like to say that you should be the first consideration for a new writer on ESPN. Hands down.

    Reply

  17. Posted by James52780 on 2010/03/24 at 12:50 PM

    How about 1A Julie Foudy in a bikini

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/24 at 12:54 PM

      James — we’re talking about plausible changes over here….though that does remind me of great story.

      In 2007, the US played China at Spartan Stadium in San Jose…(Charlie Davies first senior cap if I’m not mistaken).

      We were right to the right of broadcaster booth and Julie Foudy was doing the game. A bunch of college kids were hollering “Foudy is hot” into the broadcast booth that it was you could tell it was disrupting the broadcast.

      Reply

      • Not to degrade TSG, but I wonder if the carpet is as lion’s mane-esque as the curtains are. I don’t wonder enough to actually sneak a peak. Heather Mitts on the other hand…

        Reply

  18. Agreed on all counts, especially 5, 4, 2, and 1. Okay, 3 too (soccernet.com is a mess).

    Reply

  19. [...] • 5 Ways That ESPN Can Impove Their Soccer Coverage [...]

    Reply

  20. [...] 5 Ways to Improve Soccer ESPN Coverage Can 'Shin The Guardian Some of the anchors (Elliott, Bucchigross, Bob Ley) are informed about the game and treat it with respect, but others still treat it like its a joke, that irritates me to no end. … I agree with you – is a huge disservice to bring a writer with less than 6 months to go to the World Cup, which is not an expert. He really is. I know that column I mentioned a few times … but how is it nothing less than a slap at Joe's American Soccer … [...]

    Reply

  21. [...] And yes folks, were due to a sequel to this piece….coming soon. As a note, it looks like ESPN is following a little of our [...]

    Reply

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