Kyle Martino: TSG’s Favorite MLS Color Guy

Must read: Kyle Martino authors a guest piece on The Shin Guardian on his horrific battle with injuries. Visit Kyle’s new web site here.

Thursday Night MLS is back.

A few weeks ago, I was watching an MLS game–I believe it was Houston vs. Los Angeles–and I suddenly noticed the commentary. I’m more a data hound during games, looking at the ticker for stats or listening to the broadcast merely for facts I’ve missed.

Not Kyle Martino...but since we are getting a lot of hits with his nuptials, we thought we'd mess around a bit. Congrats Kyle.

Then a simple late tackle was made and I found myself listening to Kyle Martino describe how and why it happened. Thrifty and on-point. Pithy.

I was hooked. I listened to Martino the rest of the game and emailed our ESPN contact to set up a time to chat with Martino basically just because I wanted to. No angle.

Most reading TSG probably know Kyle Martino as member of the Los Angeles Galaxy in more of a bit role. Before injuries took their toll on Martino–who would have formed a great non-magic spray partnership with John O’Brien–the UVA alum was once a high school player of the year and MLS rookie of the year. The latter in 2002.

Now, as injures wrapped up a career before it should have ended, Martino does his soccer work from the booth, much to my current delight. While he’s on the box for MLS, shortly you’ll be able to delight in Martino calling World Cup games on ESPN Radio.

Now, to Kyle.

TSG: Okay, Kyle, thanks for joining us. Where are you headed today?

Kyle Martino: I’m heading to do the Real Salt Lake-Philly Union game in Salt Lake.

(Note: This interview was recorded May 6th.)

TSG: I typically don’t recognize announcers unless they are good or bad. If they’re average, then I don’t really hear them.

I was listening the other day to one of your games and you made some excellent points. Then I listened intently to you the rest of the game.

Your commentary is simple and effective.

That’s the lead-in; here’s the question.

Do you have a certain style? How do you think about planning and delivering each game?

KM: I think for me. I think the reason the feedback has been so positive is that my style is I approach games like I would like to listen to them.

I remember being always being so turned off by announcers that would either talk to much and try to really put way too much of their print on the game or talk too much about themselves.

Martino, speaking eloquently with his feet back in 2002...

I remember many times having to stop watching and listening to soccer games because of the commentary.

When I got to the booth, I really wanted to take responsibility and deliver simple thoughts.

Be an easy listen and have my thoughts and comments mesh with the game.

TSG: How do you prepare for each game? Do you watch video, do you draw from your playing experience?

KM: Really, it’s funny. Having to stop playing because of an injury and being young in this industry, I’m commenting on players that I played with and against. I’ll be doing that for the next 10 years.

A lot of my material is because it’s still so fresh because I just played versus some of the players, coaches or team. A lot of it is the knowledge that I’ve built up and already have.

The rest of it is just research. I read a lot and go to a number of Web sites during the day and find out what’s going on.

RSL's Chris Wingert is a confidante...

Lastly, I still have about two or three good buddies per team. I’m getting ready to go into Salt Lake and I’m going to hang out with Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert and get the skinny on what’s really going on in the locker-room and what’s going on on the field.

TSG: Do those friendships prohibit you from praising or criticizing players? Do you feel like, “Hey, I can’t praise him too much because he’s my buddy?”

KM: That’s a really good question. No, I try to be as objective as possible regardless if it is a good friend or someone I couldn’t stand playing against.

I give praise when praise is deserved and criticism when that is deserved. I’m not the type of guy that is going to talk about my favorite player and say positive things if he’s knocking the ball off his shin out of bounds all game. I’m not going to hold back.

For me, one of the reasons I love doing it so much is that it’s the perfect distance from the game since I can’t play anymore.

If I have a PHD or an MDA or any sort of credential in anything, it’s in soccer.

I like being able to have the responsibility of documenting what’s going on in the game.

TSG: What are some surprises this year in MLS?

KM: Well, first, three teams in Canada. Never thought it would grow that fast up there.

DC United is steering in the wrong direction...

Watching the league this season? One of the biggest surprises is DC United.

When we used to look at DC United on the schedule we thought that would be one of the hardest games we’d play all year long.

Unfortunately, DC United is not living up to its history; it’s been kind of amazing to see them not only at the bottom of the table but also not playing good soccer either.

It’s not very surprising to see LA back where it was once upon a time–under Bruce playing some amazing soccer.

Having Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle; two guys I played with growing up and two guys I knew how good they were.

Edson more so than Landon actually.

You never really questioned Edson’s talent growing up.

TSG: That’s a great segue if you don’t mind me entering in here.

One of the things we often we hear with players like Edson and Herculez Gomez is how does their game “translate” to the international game. “Translate” being the operative word used.

You look at Jeff Cunningham, who scored a boatload towards the end of last year, but doesn’t appear to be near making the squad this time around.

You grew up with Buddle. You watch him a lot now. How do you think his game translates to the international level?

KM: It’s interesting. Every coach has a different criteria to determine whether they can make it on the international level.

There have been plenty of players that played in the league that never made it over the threshold necessary to compete internationally, a guy like a Steve Ralston comes to mind. Great, great MLS player, but didn’t happen for him on the international level.

Hard to put a finger on why that is, but when I think about a player like Edson Buddle…..

One thing that is extremely important for coaches is their mentality of the player. Will they fit into a system? Will they buy in to what the coach wants them to do?

Martino: Buddle has more certain talent than Donovan...

It used to be a question with Edson–he had some things going on off the field–no one ever really knew if he was as mentally as strong as he needed to be to play at that level.

The next thing is when you’re playing a tournament, like the World Cup, and it’s such a short time to recover from game to game, coaches are really looking for players with no track record of health issues and able to recover.

I’m sure those are two flags that kept Buddle out of international play.

Because when it comes down to it, there is not another big forward in the league like Edson….with his size, strength, speed, and his goal scoring ability.

I think people are waiting to see if this is just another spike by him and he’ll get injured or his form will drop.

If he plays the way the way he has the beginning the season, it’s no question he should be going to the World Cup.

TSG: Two bullets on the Yanks in South Africa.

KM: For me I think the big thing to look at is…we’ve come a long way as a national team.

A big part of it is our players not going and playing overseas and getting experiencing in games that are similar to the level of play of the international ones.

For me, when I look at our team I see so much talent now.

I think we showed at the Confederation Cup that we’re capable of really shaking things up and being able to beat anybody on our best day.

The only problem is the World Cup is a whole new beast.

Having so many guys without World Cup experience on the roster is kind of an “x” factor.

You don’t know how someone is going to react once they hit that field out there in the World Cup scenario.

Courtesy, Matt Mathai

I had dinner with Landon Donovan in the city (New York City) when he was in a few weeks ago.

He said, “I think our team’s great and I love our chances…..I just wonder how some of these guys are going to react playing in a World Cup.”

I’ve played in World Cup qualifers, internationals, and Confederation Cup, it’s a big jump to get into those tournaments, but it’s not even close to the jump you make going to the World Cup.

TSG: One final question for you. TSG has written ad nauseam that the biggest entity that can push soccer the most in United States is ESPN because they can introduce the sport to passionate fans from other sports.

React to that statement.

KM: That’s a really good point.

We sit around and argue this point all the time.

For me, ESPN is the 900-pound gorilla in the room. They’re the monster. They’re almost a monopoly.

Fox Soccer Channel has recently stepped up to compete and for deliver the game of soccer to the fan.

The thing that needs to happen….well we’re spoon-fed what we’re interested in by media.

For sports fans, SportsCenter tells us what we should be interested in,

Finally SportsCenter has started to recognize soccer in the United States; they’ve got in top ten plays, etc.

When we’re talking about converting the average sports fan into a soccer fan, it’s going to take soccer showing up their plate everyday like other sports. to understand the story lines.

When ESPN and SportsCenters starts bringing into people’s homes every day, people will start buying into the storylines.

That’s when American fans are going to say okay this sport is here to stay.

TSG: Great answers Kyle. Thanks for your time.

KM: Great talking. I’m sure we’ll chat again this season.

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27 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sparkie on 2010/05/13 at 9:48 PM

    I hear what he’s saying about Buddle and the injury thing. I don’t know his medical background, but when I was focused in on him at the Sounders / Galaxy game this past weekend, he was jogging off ball and looked like Vlad Guerrero. Just that limited, jolted motion that is a tell-tale sign for some back trouble. Clearly, he has pace and game, but my perception is that he continues to play in a fair amount of pain – and guts it out. If he gets his ticket punched for SA, let’s hope he can maintain his fitness and form.

    Reply

  2. Posted by BW on 2010/05/13 at 11:15 PM

    i’ll have to keep an ear out for martino. i’m hoping commentary will only get better as a generation of players turn into TV personalities. not so much famous players (like the usual suspects we have now) but truly gifted TV people with a background in soccer. kind of funny childhood memory from A-league games on fox sports, but I’m growing weary of….it’s in the net. it’s in the net. gooooaaallll _________.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jennifer on 2010/05/14 at 5:44 AM

    Another good interview. I heard Kyle towards the beginning of the season. I didn’t know it was him at the time, but I liked whoever it was. I was surprised it was Martino. I remember him with the Crew and knew he battled injuries throughout his career, but hadn’t know he retired. I think he is really good and maybe he can keep it up and one day take the place of Harkes for US games.

    Agree with him about SportCenter. The last month or so I’ve noticed more soccer in the Top 10 Plays and in the regular broadcast. And just saw the Jozy SportCenter commercial during a break from Mike and Mike.:D

    Reply

    • Posted by Shane_K83 on 2010/05/14 at 10:13 AM

      I think ESPN is putting on a mask because the WC is 27 days away.. they do this every WC because they are showing games.. When ESPN personalities even begin to act interested i will take notice, but the Jozy commercial (great commercial) is really just throwing a dog a bone…

      Reply

      • Posted by Jennifer on 2010/05/14 at 10:34 AM

        I’ll agree in part to the mask statement. They want the ratings, so they hype everything up. They play commercials all the time and profile a team a day. But I think they are slowly getting into soccer. Broadcasting EPL games (occasionally) instead of fishing or car shows is a step up. Believe it was Josh Elliott (who’s in the Jozy commerical) who said yesterday morning how exciting the WC is and how he loves it, although he could just be blowing smoke. Even though I think Jozy’s commercial is great I think ESPN should have gone with a Donovan one. Then, at least, non soccer fans will know who’s on the screen.

        Reply

      • Posted by blairj on 2010/05/15 at 8:33 AM

        Yeah, Josh Elliott is always dropping a little extra soccer knowledge during his broadcasts on SC. Also, saw this on some ESPN chat…

        Nate (Plattsburgh, NY)

        Why dont you guys talk and show more on the Premier League. They have Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, and Arsenal, just to name a few. That is great to watch. Who cares about basketball, replace it will some soccer. You guys need to show more soccer.

        Josh Elliott (12:37 PM)

        amen Nate…I try to get the footie in the show, whenever possible…

        And Another…

        Nick (MN)

        Hey Josh, you always seem pretty enthusiastic when covering various soccer news, results, etc., so I want to know, which clubs do you support?PS GO USA NATIONAL TEAM!!

        Josh Elliott (12:18 PM)

        I began as an LA Aztecs fan, and it went from there. I support Roma in Serie A (they faced Lazio in the first match I ever saw overseas…tremendous intra-city rivalry). I’m also partial to Arsenal (and Sheffield Wednesday, back in the day) and Barca….

        I think the next TSG interview should be with him…an insiders take

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/05/15 at 9:13 AM

          Given a few comments here, I just put an interview request for Josh Elliott.

          Since you guys think he’s great, if it’s accepted….well I’m going to need your questions.

          I’ll let you know the answer shortly.

          Reply

  4. Posted by geoffersen on 2010/05/14 at 5:53 AM

    I like to hear Kyle Martino on broadcasts too. Fake Sigi took a swipe at him recently, but I think he has since recanted. That’s all.

    Reply

  5. Another solid interview. You’re killing these!

    Reply

  6. Posted by Bob on 2010/05/14 at 6:58 AM

    This was a great interview – thanks! The more soccer-people around all aspects of the sport – including the broadcast booth the better. Kyle is a great example of that.

    Reply

  7. I used to hate Kyle Martino as a player, finding him whiny and a bit of a punk. He’s an excellent commentator, though. I’ll take him and Brian Dunseth as my two favorites. They’re blunt and they know the game. It’s tough to go wrong when you have those things going for you.

    Reply

    • Posted by Shane_K83 on 2010/05/14 at 10:17 AM

      I like Christopher Sullivan for some odd reason, talks a bit to much but seems to have a real passion for the players..

      Reply

  8. Posted by ChefT on 2010/05/14 at 12:59 PM

    New to TSG much the way you guys are new to Kyle as a color guy. I’m becoming a big fan of TSG very quickly — and I’ll have to keep an ear out for Kyle. Keep it up.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Bob on 2010/05/14 at 6:59 PM

    If it is true that coaches are looking for players with no track record of injuries, then what does that say about Ching? With EJ’s injury coupled with poor play from Findley and an injury-prone Ching, it seems to me that Buddle and Gomez may both be headed to SA.

    Reply

  10. Posted by ac on 2010/06/27 at 5:37 PM

    Martino says he’s trying to be objective…I just heard him call the Seattle/Philly game…he does play by play or color for Union games…and he says in this interview that he tries to be as objective as possible? He couldn’t have a bigger woodie for philly if he tried. ESPN does a major disservice to it’s national audience when they can’t bring in two objective announcers. Martino, you’re a hack if you think you’re objective.

    Reply

  11. Posted by mike on 2010/07/04 at 9:33 PM

    I think Martino is horrible, his insight isn’t that great and frankly he doesn’t have the “top notch player” pedigree to fall back on and deliver great info. Most bad color guys at least were great players who played with great teams and players- Martino has done none of those things. He barely played for the national team. He won the rookie of the year and became a bust (in the mls!! sure its all we got here but come on, you can’t argue that has any soccer quality). He throws around commentary like he has been there and done that but he hasn’t done #$^%. I just heard him say he texted Beckham “tough luck” about the Eng V Ger game, sure dude, I bet you have his number and I bet Beckham knows who you are outside of some bad announcer in the booth. I hate to say it but I would rather have Lalas. The quality and knowledge of american announcers is poor, they should bring in the quality foreigners like Ally McCoist to really teach Americans the game. Until then I will continue to watch games without listening

    Reply

  12. Posted by mike on 2010/07/04 at 9:34 PM

    I’m even a Union fan with this homer calling the games and I wish he wasn’t

    Reply

    • Posted by feenz on 2010/07/10 at 7:58 PM

      Mike, who pissed on ur cheesesteak fella? I dont even know this kid Martino, but I have to say it sounds to me like he is living out his dream in terms of devoting his life to the sport he loves, the sport he can no longer play due to injuries. Wasnt he a teamate of David’s? I think he was even David’s guest in Milan last season when he interviewed him for the MLS. I can’t disagree more with you on the hiring of foreign soccer analysts. US soccer needs an American voice. Martino is 29 years old and with continued hard work why can’t he be that guy for many years? Philly fans just never get it, always 2nd rate, ur just another example of that. Seriously Mike, you sound like a complete donkey. Because of you, Im going to have rewatch Rocky 1, just so I can start to like Philly again.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Feenz on 2010/07/10 at 7:42 PM

    Mike, who pissed on ur cheesesteak fella? I don’t even know this guy Martino but I have to say it sounds to me that he is living out his dream in terms of devoting his life to soccer the sport he loves and can no longer play in spite of injuries. Wasn’t he a teamate of david’s ? I think he even was david’s guest in Milan last year when he interviewed him for the mls. I can’t disagree with you on the hiring of foreign tv announcers. US soccer needs an American voice , Martino is 29 years old and with continued hard work why can’t he be that guy for many years? Philly fans never get it, ur just another example.

    Reply

  14. [...] You can see out previous interview with Kyle here. [...]

    Reply

  15. Posted by justin on 2010/08/25 at 8:11 PM

    Kyle and David Beckham were indeed teammates at LA…and in fact Kyle quickly became one of Beck’s better friends on the team, even going with him to visit Kyle’s brother in Chicago, just the two of them, when the Galaxy were in town to play the Fire…and yes, he was David’s guest in Milan when he went there to interview him for mls…so mike, have whatever opinion you want, but make sure it’s an educated opinion.

    Reply

  16. [...] » Kyle Martino: TSG’s Favorite Color Guy [...]

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