Who Would Be A Commentator?- My MLS Journey Continues


I am now twenty enlightening days into my MLS adventure. For any new readers I am an English football fan who is frustrated with the money driven predictable English game. I turned to Major League Soccer partly because I knew so little about it but also because it is dismissed without foundation by so many. My articles simply document my journey and my uneducated opinions on Major League Soccer. Oh and I forgot to mention, I have fallen in love with Canadian minnows Toronto FC who I decided on as my Major League Soccer team.  I feel like I am far enough into my journey to talk candidly about another trivial MLS issue that should not really matter. When Major League Soccer first hit British screens over ten years ago British football fans were simply not ready for the awkward, uncomfortable and spurious commentary they had to endure. Here is a perfect example of the sort of drivel we had to put up with if we wanted to watch MLS in this country ten years ago:


 Release the Kraken? Release the commentator, and hire someone else. When watching a game I want just the right amount of excitement from commentary.  If he or she goes over the top and offers too much then (like in the above case) it sounds like some sort of angry orgasm which inevitably is quite off putting. Now just in case you think I am saying English commentary is exemplary, I’m most certainly not. All fans have their hated few. For instance if I hear David Pleat’s voice anywhere near a football match that I was hoping to enjoy I have to press the mute button. Who is David Pleat I hear you ask? It is this irritating, grating joke of a football co-commentator:

I wish he would go home and then retire while he’s there. Whilst on the tiresome subject of Pleat here is a golden rule for any commentators; never predict the outcome of a penalty. Best case scenario is hard to please football fans similar to myself will be underwhelmed and unimpressed by the foretelling of a well taken penalty. Worst case is you could become a national laughing stock like Kevin Keegan did after confidently announcing David Batty would score his crucial spot kick against Argentina at World Cup 98.

I have however discovered something that might be of interest to British fans who were originally put off by overexcited MLS commentators in the past. Things have undoubtedly improved. Bad commentary is no longer an excuse not to give Major League Soccer a chance. Unquestionably commentators are much more knowledgeable about the sport than they were ten years ago and muting the television is now by no means essential. I have memories of throwing a shoe at the television over a commentator’s confusion with the offside rule, however that sort of annoyance has become just that, a memory.  Whilst watching Toronto commentator Luke Wileman has been faultless. Importantly Wileman gets the right amount of excited, not wildly over enthusiastic but not bored out of his brains. I have also heard the input of former Sheffield Wednesday man John Harkes who has been interesting and informed. Just as in England you inevitably get your bad eggs and some of the jargon still goes over my head, but in time I’m sure I will get it. I’m almost certain at least one commentator calls the goal itself a cage for reasons unknown to me, but I can deal with it, or at least throw a shoe at the television again.

Now onto Toronto FC and a quick mention for English defender Richard Eckersley whose goal saving block secured all three points for Toronto FC on Saturday. It was another accomplished and clinical Toronto performance and after the Pumas performance the back four looked relatively solid. I’m still awaiting my first clean sheet as a Toronto fan but 6 points out of 6 in the league is good going. Bring on Tauro F.C and Chivas USA this week and fingers crossed for some solid commentary but if we can’t get that then two wins would do. Finally if any readers have examples of bad commentary they would like to share with us then by all means add them to the comments box, because if this Tuesdays champions league fixture is anything like the last then I will need cheering up.

I have just noticed I have gone through the whole article without a single statistic so I better drop one in at the end, it doesn’t make great reading:

  • Toronto FC have made 89 MLS substitutions this season, the most by any team.
I think I will turn that into a tradition, a negative Toronto stat at the end of each article to keep you coming back! See you next Tuesday folks.

TORONTO FC 2 COLORADO RAPIDS 1

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Who Would Be A Commentator?- My MLS Journey Continues

  1. No comment on Danny’s divine header?

  2. Adam

    Love the blog! I can’t stand DC United’s commentator, I can’t remember his name. http://youtu.be/JhSQKupocmQ “It’s in the net” sounds like he’s choking on a chicken bone. Also, Colorado Rapids commentators, Marcello Balboa knows his stuff and is a good color commentator, but their main guy is a hockey guy and doesn’t know thing one about soccer. This clip doesn’t do him justice, you’d have to watch a whole game to appreciate the majesty of his awfulness. http://youtu.be/qvG4Z07ejjc

    Now, I’m a Sounders fan and I really don’t like it when Sounders fans blow up comment boards and forums but I’d be remiss to not mention that our Arlo White is far and away the best commentator in MLS.

    • Choking on a chicken bone is very apt, just awful. Thanks Adam.

    • Adam, I couldn’t agree more. I want to follow Jimmy and throw a shoe at the TV every time I heard “It’s in the net!”. It drives me insane. And Arlo White is definitely the best in the league (this coming from a TFC fan). I wish he could give a 6-week course on commentating to rest of the league.

  3. TFCRegina

    The worst is when you have MLS Match Day Live and they feed you the American commentary for the games TFC and Vancouver are in.

    Not gonna lie, it’s the worst stuff around. For example, Colorado: They typically get a member of the Rapids organization for colour and he basically gives fellatio on the air.

    While the Canadian commentary is usually pretty good (as bad as Forrest and Dobson get it sometimes, they’re still lightyears ahead of the American commentators) the American stuff is just homerism and is awful.

  4. DKolish3

    I don’t know if you have ever heard of Ray Hudson in England but he is the best commentator in Canada

    Check him out:

    Tell me I wrong

    • Targaff

      Ray Hudson is an abomination – he’s the epitome of too much talk and not enough content. He’s the go-to-go guy for verbal onanism about Messi, regardless of who’s actually playing in the game on screen, and his primary skill is nonsensical screeching similes.

      The commentators FSC brings in to watch CCL games on the TV are also universally terrible: twice last week Chris Sullivan, when he wasn’t dozing, agreed with offside calls even while they were showing a replay of the scorer being well onside, while their token Hispanic guy has little to contribute beyond an accent. As for Harkes, he might be able to fake being a capable commentator, but in reality it’s clear from what he actually says that he comes into a game with preconceptions about the players and will happily spew forth those opinions regardless of whether they bear any resemblance to what’s happening on the pitch.

      Don’t even get me started on bloody Robbie Earle.

    • Helsinki Gooner

      Now he is awesome – “merciless, like cathy bates with a sledgehammer!”

  5. Helsinki Gooner

    I have to agree with Adam – “It’s in the net” is terrible, and unfortunately being some 10hrs away from the Pacific timezone, I don’t see too many live Whitecaps games, and thus must make do with the MLS highlight packages – featuring “it’s in the net” more often that not.

    Following on with Adam’s links (above)- IMO, and this is not for all commentators, as in my experience the Forrest/Dobson combo is not as bad, one thing they have in common is a general lack of knowledge on HOW to commentate. Particularly when in the attacking area and the initial attack breaks down, and the possession is held, and the ball moved around…it’s at this point that they either go silent, or start firing off with their stats again…when they are suddenly interrupted with “It’s in the net!!!”

    From my experience watching hockey, NFL, CFL, and of course the statistics major’s orgasm-inducing baseball, this is just possibly the culture of how commentating is done in n.america. Thus, with football/soccer, some of them really have no clue, especially if used to doing other sports – like as you mentioned the hockey guy. I can remember one of the commentators (who may still do this) ripping out a south american gooooooooooaaaaaaaal whenever a goal was scored…just b/c there is little to no soccer-on-tv history in north america – heaven forbid “it’s in the net” doesn’t become the MLS way of commentating…

  6. The one commentator that always annoyed me was one of the guys on Fox Soccer Channel that would always yell a long drawn out “Yeah!” after each goal, Max Bretos I think. Drove me nuts listening to him. The commentary has gotten much better as the years have passed, but there still is room for improvement. I’ll also guess that the commentator that called the goal a “cage” was either on a Canadian channel and/or is usually a hockey guy as I have heard a hockey goal being referred to as a cage many times.

  7. Last night’s game against Tauro gave us this jewel of a quote from Dan Dunleavy:

    “Gallardo loses the puck…I’m sorry, the ball”

  8. N

    I think you just need to go out and celebrate with yo’ people!

  9. N

    I think you just need to go out and celebrate with yo’ people!

  10. diego pasley

    If you get the opportunity check out Callum Williams that calls games for Sporting Kansas City. He is young, early 20’s I think, just came over this year from doing work for the BBC calling low tier games in England. He seems to be a good mix of traditional european style and american style.

  11. Jonny Binalay

    Not so much a commentator but I’ll never forget Lionel Bienvenu hosting the weekly highlights show when I was out in the U.S. about ten years ago.

    An overhead kick was scored and in his slow motion replay he broke down the difficulty of scoring such a goal by freezing it as the player was in the air and stating that “as you can see, the player doesn’t have eyes on the back of his head”………….whilst using the telestrator to draw a pair of eyes on the back of his head.

    Shocking.

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