Dan Wiersema of The Free Beer Movement puts together a star-studded broadcasting panel
As American crafts its own soccer identity on the field and in the stands another front has opened as well in the broadcasting booth. Major League Soccer’s first generation of players (Jamie Moreno, who retired in 2010, was the last player to have played in the league’s inaugural 1996 season) has taken off their boots and several have made the move behind the mic.
Today we’re talking to a few on-field American soccer pioneers that are now doing the same in front of the cameras; creating a distinctive “American” voice in soccer broadcasting.
Let’s Meet the Participants
Lalas: Say what?!
Alexi Lalas was a member of the 1994 and 1998 USMNT World Cup squads with 96 caps to his name. In his eleven years playing professionally he was the first modern American to play in Italy (Padova) and featured for the New England Revolution, the NY/NJ Metrostars, Kansas City Wizards, and Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer. He was also the general manager for both the Metrostars/Red Bulls and the Galaxy. For the past five years he’s worked as an on-air analyst for ESPN.
The third person "TT?" No problem...
Taylor Twellman is in his first year of the broadcasting business. Alongside JP Dellcamera, this 31-time USMNTer is the color man for Philadelphia Union matches and also appears on ESPN. Twellman played professionally for eleven years in Germany (1860 Munich) and the U.S. (New England Revolution) before medical reasons forced him to retire.
Kyle Martino is a three-year veteran of the booth and currently works for Fox Soccer Channel. Martino played in MLS for eight years for the Los Angeles Galaxy and Columbus Crew. He also featured eight times for his country.
Brian “Dunny” Dunseth has been in broadcasting since 2006 as a commentator for Fox Soccer nationally and Real Salt Lake locally. During his nine year professional career he played for several MLS sides including New England Revolution, Miami Fusion, Columbus Crew, Dallas Burn, Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, Los Angeles Galaxy, and abroad for Bodens BK. Dunseth is also the co-founder of Bumpy Pitch, a soccer t-shirt maker and, The Original Winger, a soccer-lifestyle blog.
The Shin Guardian: You all spent your entire lives playing soccer. Talk about your decision to retire and start thinking about life beyond the pitch.
Taylor Twellman: I didn’t have a choice as brain damage from concussions left me with no choice. I was asked, “Do you want to live healthy past 45/50? Then you must retire now and stop working out”.
Black and white issue for me so it was simple. Right now I am enjoying the media side of MLS and covering Boston sports locally and hopefully it’s a future that I have.
Alexi Lalas: I finished playing at the end of 2003 and was told that my contract would not be picked up. One door closes and another opens. I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to go right into an MLS front office. Although I could have hung on and played for a few more years, I recognized the gift that I was being given. Very few players get to go out on their own terms, so if a jumping-off point comes along you have to be mature enough to see it and brave enough to take it – because it might not be there further down the line.
Camaraderie on the pitch no more...
Kyle Martino: My decision was pretty much made for me. After several surgeries to put me back together, humpty-dumpty style, I was advised by doctors that the party was over. Deciding to retire was probably the most difficult moment in my life so far. To give up something I loved so intensely, something that I worked my whole life to obtain left me with a gigantic void. The silver lining (although to me it seems more like clear skies altogether) was getting the opportunity to fall in love with soccer in a whole new way. Broadcasting has given me a new appreciation for the sport that has been so good to me. It has taken time, but I can still get the buzz up in the booth that I used to get down on the field.
Brian Dunseth: I really don’t think anyone professional is ready for the day they decide to walk away from the playing side of the game, regardless of how long they’ve played. For me, it was more about having control over my own life and the direction I decided to head into.
If you look above, I’ve played for pretty much every team in the history of soccer in the United States and I was completely fine with it. Playing the game was never about establishing my life in just one spot; it was about the life experience that came along with the game on and off the field.
My wife (who was my Fiancée at the time) was dealing with the decline of her father at the time of my release from the Los Angeles Galaxy and, after owning three homes and not living in a single one of them for more than nine months, I decided my playing path had come to an end
TSG: How did you get into broadcasting? Is that something you considered realistic as a post-retirement career?
Martino: Getting involved in broadcasting was kind of a fluke. We were on a two game road trip with the LA Galaxy and I had received a red card for my skinny guy feisty-ness in the first game. I was forced to sit on the sidelines to serve that one game suspension during the following game at New England. The broadcast team asked me up in to the booth to do an interview for a few minutes during the second half. I guess they liked what I was doing because they ended up keeping me there for most of the game.
I guess the Powers That Be took notice because a few years later when I had announced my retirement, my phone rang. On the other end was ESPN asking if I wanted to try covering a game. I said yes, and the rest is history as they say.
Taylor on the pitch...on the right that is...
Twellman: Tom McNeeley from ESPN always told me I should give it a shot when I was done and that I may be good at it, but as a player I was Bull Durham, TT the cliché HA! So Now that I am done playing I can be the personality that I wanted to be as a player but not worry so much about saying something about the opponent or my own head coach that would be controversial.
Dunseth: It’s funny… I had a conversation with Christian Miles and Alan Hopkins in 2006 about getting into broadcasting. This was a follow up to when I first came into MLS and I watched my teammate Alexi Lalas go on camera and absolutely turn it on. I knew then I wanted to learn how to do what he was able of doing.
Miles & Hopkins
Less than a week after my release from the Galaxy, I moved back to Salt Lake City so my wife could be with her Father and decided to suck up my pride and go to a game. When I got there about 45 minutes before kickoff, I heard the Pre-game Radio show and the guys breaking down the upcoming opponent. I felt like I could do a good job doing that considering the fact I knew all the teams / players in the league and offered up my services. From the Pre / Post-Game show, it turned into a Color Analyst role on radio and then when Robin Fraser took the Assistant Coach role alongside Jason Kreis, I was fortunate enough to be offered the Color Analyst role for Real Salt Lake broadcasts.
Lalas: In 2008, I was fired from the Galaxy and ESPN immediately called. Throughout my career I had made a point of seeking out and making time for TV work (World Cups, Olympics, highlight shows, commercials etc…). My limited appearances showed people that I knew what I was doing and had a potential future in broadcasting. I’ve always considered myself an entertainer and I enjoy performing. I had a successful career on the field which opened up doors for me off the field. But it only opened the door; the rest was and continues to be about hard work and commitment. It’s one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had and it enables me to remain in the game I love.
TSG How would you describe your broadcasting “style?”
Dunseth: Honest and Accountable. Being able to say to a player face anything that I say to the camera.
Martino: My style is critical, but fair. I am in a unique position starting this career at my age. Most people get involved in TV after a long career stretching into their mid to late 30’s. Being so young, I will be covering guys I played with, and against, for many years to come. It gives me a great advantage to know the games I am covering so intimately and have that inside edge.