Gus Johnson made his widely expected Fox Soccer debut today calling the Champions League first leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. WIth the soccer community's noted zeal and high standards for announcers and Fox going all-in with Johnson for the 2018 World Cup, there was more riding on this debut than any in recent memory.
So did Gus rise and fire in his television transition to the beautiful game? Here's 5 Takeaways from Gus Johnson's Fox Soccer debut...
1) The start was always going to be important and Gus Johnson was calm and composed in the pre-match buildup. Soccer fans were likely chomping at the bit to hear Gus mispronounce "Alvaro Arbeloa" or "Santiago Bernabeu" but the American announcer conveyed the context of the match well and clearly did his homework, providing several facts on the players involved in the first few minutes. It's clear Gus Johnson knows the game of soccer, unlike when Dave O'Brien was thrown into the fire. Even small things like using the lingo of "team sheet" instead of lineup or "touchline" instead of "sideline" will ingratiate himself to the skeptical hardcore soccer fanbase. What else could you ask for when Johnson is calling players "footballers"?
2) Another worry from the soccer community was that Johnson would scream and yell and overpower the telecast. Again, that didn't happen. Gus Johnson's commentary was quite understated throughout the ebb and flow of the game, surprising those expecting him to sound something like this...
Even Johnson's goal call for Danny Welbeck's opening header was somewhat muted, but as the game went on that trademark excitement appeared more frequently for the big moments. Those climactic shots off the post, big saves, and shots from distance were simply made for Gus Johnson. Importantly though, those moments were delivered at the right time from the booth and the rest of the game broadcast flowed nicely.
3) While Johnson certainly passed his first test, you can tell there's still plenty of room for improvement. The substance of Gus' play by play was rather basic as he largely stuck to describing what was happening in front of him. The next step for Johnson is that level of understanding that provides more details and context to viewers consistently. When teams are holding onto more possession, strikers getting isolated, 1 v 1 battles, etc. There were a couple other areas you could nitpick, with the second goal call on Ronaldo's header a little wonky and Johnson needing to draw more attention to a controversial no call when Patrice Evra got behind the Madrid defense. There were a couple misidentifications, too. Those things will largely be smoothed over and improved as Johnson becomes more in tune with the game over time. Remember he's called just a handful of games on radio for the San Jose Earthquakes before going straight to one of the biggest games in world soccer.
4) Warren Barton is never going to be Cris Collinsworth or John Madden, but I thought he provided a steady if not unspectacular partner for Johnson's debut. Barton seemed like the safe option from Fox Soccer. Johnson's analysts will rotate for the next two games but it's going to be important for Fox to find someone he can develop chemistry with and provides more incisive analysis with Johnson still learning the craft. If there's one criticism the soccer community can point towards Fox, it's allowing Johnson to learn on the fly during a significant Champions League match right away instead of building towards that spotlight.
5) Fox has to be incredibly pleased with Gus Johnson's debut. He's never going to win over 100% of soccer fans, but it was an impressive opening statement to the doubters and skeptics.
An announcer has rarely ever faced as much pressure and scrutiny as Johnson was under today in Madrid. Johnson only had one opportunity to make a first impression and he delivered.
Gus didn't sound like a basketball announcer calling soccer, he sounded like a soccer announcer. The rhythm of his calls and his excitement as the action reaches a crescendo is a fantastic pairing. If this is his baseline as a soccer announcer, Fox has to be thrilled at the possibilities for the future. The presence of a top American announcer, particularly Gus Johnson, opens up new windows for the sport to grow. If Johnson continues to get better from here, he could indeed be America's voice for soccer when the 2018 World Cup comes around.
Abrasive (as mentioned below), lacking knowledge about soccer (which can't be hidden with layers of internet facts learning about teams and players) - and YES, that awfull butchering of the players' names - Modric became Mawdric, Robben is now Rawben - and even poor, simple Oscar is being screamed as Awscar, even when is not even close to score! I switched to the Alternate Language after Gus' first game, and now I'm enjoying those Spanish guys commentary - while knowing 20 words of Spanish!
Did he sound like a football announcer? 100% no doubt. My only deal with Gus is that his screaming style towards every supposed shot is too abrasive. That is where you can see he's not experienced. There was a run Torres made at the end, and any person who knows striking and the angles needed to make a shot knew he had no chance at scoring. Yet Gus made it look like it was about to be Man U taking the CL from Bayern circa 1999. He will learn those things with time,however, Idon't think though overall his abrasiveness will ever become accepted. It takes away from the game.
Absolutely 100% spot-on, stuartlawrence12. I could have written the exact same commentary myself, except I probably wouldn't have been as judicious in my wording. In fact, I DID write almost the exact thing to Fox Soccer on their website, but never had even a form-response from them. Gus Johnson RUINS the enjoyment of English/European soccer for those of us Americans who appreciate the smoother, more elegant --and, most importantly, much more knowledgeable -- commentary of Brit announcers. Wrong voice, wrong inflection, wrong pacing, American-football style "urgency" -- Gus Johnson is simply the wrong man. PLEASE stop this before it spreads!! I am horrified to hear they are grooming him for the World Cup! And who knows what the commentator lineup will be next season when NBC Sports takes over from Fox, whom they outbid for the Barclay's Premier League? Have you noticed how many British voices are now used for American television commercials? And here we have the opposite happening with a US football/basketball announcer's voice being used for an authentically European product. As itchyo41979 says: Nough said. fire him!
How bad was Gus Johnson?Just awful.
Guys at fox soccer Please please ..do not fall in to the trap of thinking you need to enhance the Premiership experience by giving us USA announcers that are so bad and so uneducated about soccer .Their commentary is awful Gus Johnson doing the Man U v Mardid and Arsenal v Bayern ruined my enjoyment of the presentation..It takes away from the event the experience and and atmosphere having a USA announcer reading bios all the way through the game with facts that are often wrong .Ive watched the beautiful game for 50 years loved what you have done with the Prem here in the USA the last 10 years but your wrong on this call ..Its like trying to replicate a wonderful cake but getting the ingredients wrong ..Give us back our Martin Tyler and other wonderful announcers who know the game and bring it to life ..The audience you have is wonderfully educated wonderfully informed and will not appreciate what you are doing here with Basketball or NFL type of commentaries .It doesnt work .Ask Warren Barton .
I'm usually in complete agreement with MY, but this time I can only agree with your fourth point. Barton was pretty good and about as expected, and allowing GJ to learn on the fly was disappointing especially in a match this big. Gus' staccato, uneven delivery throughout the match was jarring. There was no crescendo like the smooth styles of UK announcers (and certainly none of their understated wit). Gus had a lot of uneven mezzo-forte to fortissimo and back to mezzo-forte again. And despite being an American, perhaps I'll just never adjust to hearing my compatriots calling European and international football matches.
Not a big fan of GJ as I don't enjoy getting yelled at when I'm watching a game, but was pleasantly surprised and impressed with his call today.
Obviously, he did his homework and worked in some soccer jargon, but to say that Gus Johnson, or really any announcer, will be a vehicle to grow the sport in America is more than a stretch.
Nice read, although "steady if not unspectacular" is a cumbersome phrasing.
Want only the best for Gus, but have to believe that most would prefer he return to March Madness.
RT @awfulannouncing: How's this for instant analysis: 5 Takeaways from Gus Johnson's Fox Soccer debut. http://t.co/k11wIQaq
he has a lot of room to grow but overal he did good but he still has time until 2015 for women and 2018 for mwn
@awfulannouncing totally agree with each point, he has a lot of room to grow which judging by today he could become great!
“@awfulannouncing: How's this for instant analysis: 5 Takeaways from Gus Johnson's Fox Soccer debut. http://t.co/lDP85RB9” Great analysis.
@awfulannouncing i didnt watch the game but i heard the goal call and he sounded really enthusiastic and he loves the game.