By Kaleb Page
Quality soccer commentary in the U.S. is at a premium. Especially for commentators that are from the U.S. and can actually articulate not only the names, but the chess match that is soccer. ESPN had this premium in more ways than one with commentators Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas. Recently both of these key American soccer analysts went their opposite ways.
In the world of soccer, America is looked at as a lackluster soccer playground. Especially when it comes to the knowledge of the game and the subtle nuances that lends itself to the phrase “the beautiful game.” This past summer with the success and valiant efforts put forth by the U.S. men’s national soccer team, it started to show the change here in the states. In Brazil the following by the U.S. could not be mistaken and those that could not make it showed tremendous support unlike most World Cup’s in years past.
Twellman and Lalas both brought a knowledgeable American voice to the forefront of soccer. Something that those not up to par on their soccer could look to and get their facts in order to really learn the game. I think over the years these two have built more of a soccer following here and allowed more people to actually know what they are talking about with soccer (possibly why Brazil had such a successful following). With Twellman and Lalas exclusively on ESPN, it provided a platform to reach the masses and it opened the eyes to the rest of the networks.
Recently the contract for Twellman and Lalas came up at ESPN which led to Fox Sports jumping in to sign them away. With a battle between the two networks it came down to the two analysts to make a decision. For Twellman it was to stay with ESPN, and for Lalas it was to move on to Fox Sports. In something he said was like them giving him the godfather treatment.
Fox Sports still has to officially announce that Lalas has made the move, but for Lalas it was a no-brainer move. Creatively Fox Sports is one of the best sports outlets for soccer coverage, and some would say even better than their counterpart ESPN. Fox has these key soccer fixtures under their rights: 2015 Women’s World Cup, 2018 Men’s World Cup, a new MLS package and their already great coverage of the Champions League, FA Cup and soon the German Bundesliga. For any soccer analyst, especially one as outspoken and knowledgeable as Lalas, this network is a dream come true. This move also allows Lalas to be closer to his kids. Lalas lives in Los Angeles and Fox Sports has its studio in LA, which for Lalas is a 20 minute trip instead of his ESPN 3,000 mile flight.
For myself I would say it is a blow to the ESPN soccer analysis to lose the likes of Lalas since he gives such an honest take on what is going on in soccer. To be honest in years past I would be in the group of Americans who had little knowledge of the game and the tactics. With the help of a friend like Seth Glover, countless soccer matches on TV, FIFA videogames and analysis by those like Lalas; I now have a better understanding. It will be interesting to see how Lalas is incorporated to Fox’s already vast array of soccer coverage, and is able to give more of the country knowledge on “the beautiful game.”