In a move that releases a collective, “Hoorah!” from most American soccer fans I know, Grant Wahl reports over at SI.com that ESPN will not bring back John Harkes for color commentary in 2012. Harkes has been a consistent lightning rod for viewer angst during ESPN’s coverage of the domestic game, and has learned of his status with the company.
The analyst who will replace Harkes is another USMNT veteran, who is a rising star in the business. Taylor Twellman will be moved up from the #2 color slot for domestic coverage to the top chair. The former MLS MVP and Golden Boot Winner in 2005 for New England has made great strides in the booth over the past year, after his playing career was shortened by persistent post-concussion symptoms. In addition to announcing a few matches for ESPN, he replaced Kyle Martino as the color commentator for the Philadelphia Union alongside J.P. Dellacamera. He also was called in as a studio analyst on occasion, including during yesterday’s MLS Cup.
While Harkes seemed to have preconceptions about certain teams and players, Twellman has developed a reputation for wearing his emotion on his sleeve. He doesn’t not pull punches on the air, which should be a refreshing change from the somewhat predictable Harkes. I think this is a wise move for ESPN. It shows that they remain serious about US Soccer, and could put pressure on NBC heading into the 2014 contract renewals.
According to Wahl, the other elements of ESPN’s coverage will also return in 2012, including Ian Darke, Adrian Healey, and Alexi Lalas.
Wahl’s report also contains speculation about NBC’s search for it’s on-air talent, but we’ll wait until clearer guidance is handed down to add our own views. The only other thing that sounds concrete is that Dellacamera will remain at FOX Soccer, which is unfortunate. Dellacamera’s voice is nearly synonymous with US Soccer over the years, and it’s unclear where Dellacamera’s talents will be plied.
What do you think? How do you feel about the choice of Taylor Twellman to replace John Harkes? And who would you like to see given a shot at NBC’s brand new coverage?