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Shake-Up: Twellman To Replace Harkes At ESPN

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?

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. bob

    March 1, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Wish they would have canned Darke and Macmanaman instead!

  2. mark peckham

    December 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I think we’re being a bit harsh on Harksey….and I don’t think TT
    is all that bad either. I think to be an excellent commentator you
    have to have coaching and refereeing experience. Yes they played
    the game, but they need more. I listened to Steve Mclaren (former
    england coach) during the CL and he educated and guided me thru the
    play. The guy which I don’t get is Lexis Lawless(did I spell that
    right?) too brash and egotistical for me, seems like he’s going for
    the “shock value” with his comments.

  3. Daniel Nieves

    December 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t understand the love affair with JP, as a play by play
    announcer. He should be second choice. People complain about Ian
    Darke, but he shows passion when he calls games. JP is often
    boring. Some of USA’s biggest highlights in soccer have Darke’s
    voice in the background. Thank you from across the pond Mr. Darke
    for making some memorable (Donovan goal vs Algeria, Wambach vs
    Brazil) US moments even more memorable. And what is Sullivan’s
    background! Is he like Brad Friedel who has developed an accent
    because of where he was plying his trade.

  4. Udo

    November 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Anyone who thinks that Twellman is an upgrade is out of their mind.
    Twellman’s analysis of the game is the eqivalent of entoxicated
    soccer dad at a u-12 game. There is nothing about his technical
    analysis of the game that I appreciate. Sure, John Harkes is a bit
    snobbish, but he at least his understanding of the game is sound.
    Twellmans analysis is too simple. This move just illustrates the
    lack of US talent in the analyst pool.

    • CTBlues

      November 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      I want to know how does a man sleep with a teammates’ wife and get
      a job at a Disney owned company?

  5. Zack Kaiser

    November 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I like the move for ESPN. I would love to see JP or Arlo White do
    the broadcasting for NBC.

  6. CTBlues

    November 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Also I’m wondering if ESPN will even go after MLS rights now that
    they aren’t required with WC rights.

    • Ron

      November 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      No they wont. Why would they when the MLS final is pulling in a .8
      rating? Premier league ratings continue to kill MLS ratings so I’m
      sure they will focus on that. ESPN has no desire to support MLS or
      keep it going forward.

  7. CTBlues

    November 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    This is good news, but I was hoping JP was gunna go to NBC for next
    year.

  8. SoccerLimey

    November 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I have a better suggestion. Keep both Harkes and Twellman on ESPN
    and dump Chris Sullivan (he with the fake accent) and Nick Webster
    ( the greatest, best, biggest or whatever ) from FOXSoccer Channel.
    Soccer in the USA will be much the better place for all of us. I
    will pay money for that….

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