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Fox and ESPN Bring Their A Game To Soccer Analysis

football tactics analysis Fox and ESPN Bring Their A Game To Soccer Analysis

Analyzing soccer tactics has never been a strongpoint of US television, but if you haven’t being paying attention recently, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that both Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN have made giant improvements to their coverage.

At Fox Soccer Channel, Warren Barton has come into his own during halftime of Champions League matches as he stands in front of a flat-screen monitor and routinely analyzes tactics alongside the soccer mastermind Bobby McMahon.

Over at ESPN, Julie Foudy has made vast improvements in her analysis since her abysmal work during Euro 2008 and is now actually quite tolerable and, believe it or not, enlightening.

Both Barton and Foudy do a superb job at using footage from the first half of games and marrying that with technology to pause key moments and use on-screen graphics to get their points across. And trust me, the analysis they share is not child’s play. They both point out very insightful tactical gems and do so quite convincingly.

If you haven’t been watching Foudy and Barton closely, I urge you to watch them more closely the next time you see their analysis on television. You may be pleasantly surprised as I was.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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24 Responses to Fox and ESPN Bring Their A Game To Soccer Analysis

  1. I agree I believe FSC has made strides in adding better analysis, but I still can’t come to grips with Julie Foudy or any of the US/MLS commentators for ESPN. JP and Harkes are very difficult to listen to, I’m just glad they don’t have anything to do with the EPL games on ESPN2, and hopefully they’ll be far from the World Cup.

    However, I will give ESPN the edge of FSC on their EPL coverage, besides the HD which we know is coming to FSC Jan. 1, 2010, they do a wonderful pregame and halftime show. I love seeing the players ready to take the field in the tunnel. Maybe FSC has more bills to pay and must use pregame and halftime for advertising but I still think its awesome what ESPN does. Hopefully come 2010 FSC will do the same.

    • Grant says:

      The U.S. games will absolutely be called by JP and John. They’ve spent too much time building them up as the go-to-guys for U.S. games on ESPN.

      I also think that Julie Foudy has made huge strides in her work since Euro 2008. She’s not perfect, but she’s no longer suspect of being on the air because she was the only person they could find. I must admit I thought that was a possibility a few years ago.

  2. Brian W says:

    Haha, this analysis is laughable…

    About two weeks ago, Foudy said that Landon Donovan would be one of the best three players in the Premier league if he went to play in England.

    After the laughing ends…proceed to laugh again!

    • The Gaffer says:

      While I agree with you that Donovan would not be in the top 3 in England and that the statement by Foudy is laughable, I’m focusing on just the tactical analysis and not her opinions.

      Her opinions are another story!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  3. Tom Dixon says:

    Hmm, I rather like JP and Harkes. JP actually knows what the hell is happening on the field and emotes excitement at the right time, unlike ABC’s former #1 commentator, Dave O’Brien, who was simply intolerable. Harkes is good for one out-there statement a game, like last night’s invocation of carpe diem. I am happy to see that ESPN/ABC has secured Martin Tyler as the main play-by-play man for the World Cup; let’s hope he has a decent wing-man to work with next summer.

    • nothap'n says:

      Anyone looks competent compared to good ol’ Dave O’Brien. There’s just too much talking between JP and Harkes and hopefully they are only on the call for the US games and that’s it.

      • Grant says:

        I agree with both statements. I like JP and Harks, as when I’m watching the U.S. I’m as much of a fanboy as they are, so I don’t mind their obvious enthusiasm. JP also has an intuitive feel for the game that non-soccer broadcasters just can’t fake.

  4. brn442 says:

    Harkes may be half-way decent at calling MLS matches but his bias when he does National Team matches, excuse me, Team USA games is barely tolerable.

    • Grant says:

      I agree. “Team USA” grates on me like nails on a chalkboard. As I said above, I don’t really mind their bias, though. When you listen to Englishmen call England games, they aren’t exactly nuetral either. It’s one thing when it’s club, but it’s another when it’s country.

  5. nick says:

    Out of 3 pre-game,half-time shows currently available theres only one worth watching,and thats Sentantas.
    Am i the only one to find FSCs very amateurish,with Christian Miles a joke. He does the show like its football for beginners…. whilst i agree Warren Barton has come on leaps & bounds.
    I cant even watch ESPNs show, im sorry anything with Tommy Smyth is a no no in my world,and Robbie Mustoe is not exactly a household football name. No for me Sentanta sat show is great, two presenters who know the game inside out & with pat dolan #1 on our t.v screens this side of the pond.

  6. Ivan says:

    Pat Dolan is pure class on Setanta(even though I don’t agree w/ him on constantly backing up Rafa and blaming the American owners for all of Liverpool’s failures). The Setanta pre-game, half-time and post-game show is the only one I make a point of watching.
    Fowdy, on the other hand, has no redeeming qualities. She is really really bad. Why does ESPN keep sticking w/ her and Tommy Smith is beyond me…(btw, don’t they have mandatory retirement for people like Smythe?)
    Barton is ok. He is just beginning to learn his trade as a football analyst and has improved since he first joined the FSC team.
    On a separate and random note, I was watching Sky Sports News last night, and when they were reviewing the NFL week during their last segment, the commentator called the Baltimore Ravens, “The Baltimore Raisins” 2 times. I almost fell off the chair. Too funny! Aaah, The Raisins…

  7. Gaz says:

    Anyone see that “hot spot technology” they were using during the MLS Cup? What a bunch of useless shite. :)

    It was basically a pitch that was red (if the player spend a lot of time in that area), orange (less so), light green (even less so), or dark green (little to no time spent in that part of the pitch).

  8. Cantona says:

    Dolan at halftime is about as good as it gets!.. I agree.. I dont agree with alot he says.. but I can never switch him off.. Foudy is just the absolute worst.. she brings NOTHING to the broadcast at all.. I dont give a monkeys how may women world cups she been in.. Lalas just seems clueless.. but I do agree with you gaffer with Warren Barton… he gives great insight.. he and Bobby Mcmahon do a great job on CL matchdays.. they make Max even stomachable…

    Cantona–

  9. Brian W says:

    @ The Gaffer:

    Her tactical insight IS opionion – that’s why she’s there! I respect her as a player for everything she accomplished but she’s complete crap as an analyst – which I cringe at just giving her the title!

  10. The Gaffer says:

    Point taken.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  11. Monk12 says:

    Im glad to see Fox and ESPN making this improvement. Soccer is slowly gaining popularity in the United States and in order to continue this trend, improvement in this aspect was necessary.

  12. JLay says:

    Sorry, but ALL of the US commentators are crap. I watch almost every game on mute, and will continue to do so until one of them manages to make some sense of what is going on on the field. Otherwise I just sit there and get pissed off, wondering how our former internationals can misidentify basic formations, tactics, and rulings on the field.

    Foudy is an absolute joke, and Harkes has only a basic grasp of things. JP is OK at times but he still misses things. If they bring back Lalas or Balboa I think I’ll spit up. The problem is simple; none of them provide any insight on the games they call because they can’t – they don’t really understand it themselves. And that’s sad.

    Unfortunately, young players will look up to these clowns, take their “tactical insights” as gospel, and the cycle of stupidity will continue.

  13. CFTV says:

    From what Steven Cohen said a couple of weeks ago Georgie went back to the UK. Not sure if she is still with the ESPN or if she is looking for another gig. I liked her a lot when she was doing WSD, Fox Football Friday, and Through The Night but I found her a bit uncomfortable as the live presenter for the pre-game especially when she had to wing it during times when ESPN was losing their feed on a regular basis during the early part of the season.

    Pat Dolan is by far the best television pundit and is great on WSD when he does an interview. You can just wind him up let him go.

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