Placating the ”soccer snobs,” those fans who take their inspiration from European soccer and prefer a certain cadence and style while at the same time not losing faith with those Americanized fans and writers who see promoting all things MLS and USSF as a cause, is a tricky balancing act that Twellman has pulled off. How? By giving honest critiques of the US system and MLS without the type of incendiary language and angry rhetoric that characterizes some critics of the domestic setup. Twellman rightly promotes MLS where he can for the things they do well but criticizes them for other areas where they can and must upgrade.
Using Twitter wisely even if it involves breaking stories that might offend some in the US soccer community, it’s something Twellman has learned to do very well. For example in April, Cyle Larin of Orlando City SC was apparently fouled in the area by New York’s Karl Ouimette but no penalty was called. The moment was decisive in the Red Bulls 3-2 win over Orlando and was met with criticism from FS1 match commentators John Strong and Alexi Lalas. However, the next day Twellman pointed out the officiating crew had erred before the non-penalty call by not flagging Larin for offside to begin with.
It’s this attention to detail and unwillingness to challenge conventional wisdom or established narratives that makes Twellman so good at his job. His ease of conversion from matchday co-commentator to studio analyst and knowledge of world football at all levels has been on display during this European Championship. Often seeing angles in the match others don’t, Twellman has repeatedly given unique insight into player movement, body language and tactical considerations that others either don’t observe or simply choose to avoid discussion of. No holes barred typifies his style of analysis while combining well with Ian Darke on match commentary and other ESPN studio personalities including Mike Tirico, Bob Ley, Michael Ballack, Julie Foudy and Roberto Martinez among others.
Twellman has provided what many fans of soccer in the United States long have sought – an intelligent, authoritative voice on the sport with an American accent. His work has also dispelled many lazy stereotypes fans of the sport had about American commentators who played the bulk of their careers in MLS. Fans of the sport can hope Twellman is the first in a breed of savvy and sophisticated American analysts of the world’s game.