Certainly, there were some good points but not surprisingly, given FOX’s track record of late, there were plenty of low points. As ridiculous as it sounds, FOX Sports’s soccer coverage even managed to be worse than usual at times during the tournament. Overall, there’s no doubt that it wasn’t good enough to compete with the way that both ESPN and NBC has raised the bar for soccer coverage on television in the United States.
Out of the entire International Champions Cup, FOX’s best production was for the Manchester United versus Real Madrid game at Michigan Stadium. One of the main reasons why it was improved compared to the other games was because FOX decided to put Rob Stone, Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda on an outside set instead of having the trio commentate a game, like they did for the LA Galaxy vs Manchester United match.
The trio are better suited to working in a studio — whether it’s inside or out.
The standout performer at FOX during the tournament was Brian McBride as a color commentator. The former USMNT World Cup star is improving his announcing, and is by far a better co-commentator than studio pundit. McBride is the polar opposite of Wynalda. The former Everton, Fulham and Columbus Crew forward is calm, cool, and collected. He doesn’t speak in absolutes or shout like Wynalda. McBride offers real insight and analysis and seems to work well with no matter what commentator he is paired with. Going forward, FOX should consider pairing McBride with Gus Johnson.
Aside from the positives, one of the problems that FOX has it that it tries to treat its soccer broadcasts like any other sporting event. FOX uses the same theme intro for all of its sports, while NBC and ESPN both have a different musical theme for every sport, and they all stand out. Treat a soccer broadcast like a soccer broadcast and leave the NFL robot for NFL games.
Another issue with FOX Sports’ soccer coverage is the fact that they didn’t use Gus Johnson. Seeing as how FOX has committed themselves to Johnson as the long term voice of soccer on their network, it would have made sense for him to commentate some of these incredibly high profile games. But maybe he thought he was too good for the tournament? Instead, FOX will continue to sprinkle him into six or seven soccer games a year.