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Harkes to replace Wynalda on MLS telecasts?
by Ridge Mahoney, January 17th, 2008 6:15PM
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The inclusion of former U.S. international John Harkes on the ESPN2 broadcast of the MLS SuperDraft Friday isn't the only change to the cable system's soccer format. Nor is it a one-off.

Word is spreading at the NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, where the MLS SuperDraft will be staged Friday, that Harkes is replacing Eric Wynalda as lead analyst on MLS telecasts this season. Officially, Wynalda - who is in the third year of a five-year contract - will be assigned other events, but since his contract specifies he will work soccer events, ESPN may scramble to find enough non-MLS soccer events to fulfill his portfolio.

Wynalda angered ESPN executives last year when disparaging remarks he uttered to a group of fans in a bar about ESPN host Jim Rome were disseminated in a blog. He was suspended for a game, fined $5,000, and replaced by former women's international Julie Foudy. For most subsequent MLS games he shared analyst duties with Tommy Smyth, the lead analyst for Champions League telecasts.

Harkes left his assistant coaching position with Red Bull New York two weeks ago. He has worked on soccer telecasts for the ESPN networks in the past, including the 2006 World Cup and Women's College Cup, and for two seasons was Fox Soccer Channel's studio analyst on "MLS Wrap."

A call to Harkes' cell phone was not returned, as was one to Wynalda. ESPN spokesman Mac Nwulu said "We have nothing to announce at this time.  We are still in the talent evaluation phase for MLS Primetime Thursday and U.S. Soccer telecasts, much like we do each off-season with any sport on ESPN."

Other changes have been in the offing for months. According to sources, veteran soccer commentator JP Dellacamera has been offered the job as lead play-by-play announcer on soccer telecasts, including MLS. Dave O'Brien, who landed 2006 World Cup duties as a condition of signing a new contract three years ago, is overloaded with baseball assignments this year for the Red Sox and ESPN.

Smyth will continue to do Champions League games on ESPN2 and other international games for ESPN International but is off regular duty on MLS telecasts.

Coverage of the MLS SuperDraft begins at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and runs for an hour. Harkes will be joined by host Rob Stone and reporter Allan Hopkins. The remainder of the draft will be streamlined on

  1. Root Wayne
    commented on: January 17, 2008 at 8:21 p.m.
    Eric is a guy who always speaks straight from the hip. He doesn't mince words and tells the truth as he sees it. He's a lot like Ray Hudson in that way. Anything he said about Jim Rome, who hates soccer, couldn't be tough enough as far as I am concerned. Suck it up, ESPN execs. You're a bunch of lily-livers.
  1. Ray Parnell
    commented on: January 17, 2008 at 9:28 p.m.
    JP Dellacamera as play-by-play announcer? I can barely tolerate watching any game he announces or should I say preaches. He is the absolute worst. Why not have Wynalda and Harkes do the games? Or better yey Rob Stone with Wynalda and Harkes for color commentary.
  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: January 18, 2008 at 11:20 a.m.
    I agree that Wynalda should be replaced, but for a different reason. When on air he talks about everything EXCEPT the game. He spends more time talking abut wigs, fans costumes, haircuts, etc. than he does about what's happening on the field. During one game a substitution was made, and he was too busy talking about something else to even notice. So we got no explanation about who, why it was made. Maybe he could be traded to the "E network."
  1. David Whitten
    commented on: January 18, 2008 at 2:09 p.m.
    Wynalda's being replaced is yet another example of ESPN's dedication to insipid mediocrity and another example of how little they value the world's most popular team sport! Anything Wynalda said about Jim Rome would be but a pale reflection of what I and my friends and family have said about him. It's sad to see that a straight-talking, no-nonsense former international star - the first true American International soccer star, can't get a little respect from the media lightweights!!!

  1. commented on: January 18, 2008 at 5:02 p.m.
    I agree with the comment above. JP is deadly! Although Eric does wander, at least he is colorful and knowledgeble--good comparison with Ray Hudson. I've heard Harkes, and he is so soft-spoken, it's hard to hear him. Whom do we contact at ESP?

  1. commented on: January 21, 2008 at 3:44 p.m.
    Jim Rome is a jerk. No one can say anything bad enough about him.
  1. Dave Kantor
    commented on: January 21, 2008 at 9:33 p.m.
    I think JP is a class act and deserves the #1 spot. I am very happy for him. As for Waldo, he can be pr-ck sometimes but he gives some useful insight into the game. I liked his work on MLS telecasts last season, and would have preferred him over Harkes. John is OK but tends to spew cliches and is not a good analyst IMO. I totally agree that Jim Rome is a complete schmuck and anything that Waldo said was probably not enough. JP has earned his chance and I'm glad ESPN finally realized that hiring a baseball announcer for soccer was a big mistake.
  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: January 25, 2008 at 2:49 p.m.
    Just about everything already said appears to be right-on. Wynalda's loss is a problem for the simple reason that he speaks his mind, not something often done today in broadcasting. John Harkes tended to repeat certain phrases over and over again on the MLS show -- hopefully he'll over time. From every comment I have ever heard of Jim Rome, he deserved anything Wynalda said, and more. It's easy in the US market to downgrade world football -- I've often felt people who do this are simply lazy or uncreative, and can get by with repeating over and over basic stupidities that their audiences are unknowledgeable enough about football/soccer that they don't understand. I really believe ESPN is making a mistake in this case.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: January 27, 2008 at 8:55 p.m.
    Wynalda is a colorful color commentator, and generally adds spice to the telecasts. He is unafraid to speak his mind, and even more rare (among commentators), he is unafraid to admit when he was wrong. The only thing I don't like about him is how often he talks about "good fouls" (fouls that are purposely committed to prevent opponents from getting into dangerous situations). While such fouls may be tactically smart, they have no place in the game and commentators should not applaud them. Perhaps he could talk a bit less (and stay more focused on the game), but it is evident he enjoys the games and that is a plus. Removing him (especially if it is for off-air comments about Rome, who works hard to be a jerk), is a mistake. I've always liked Harkes as a player, and I think with more experience, he'll be a good commentator. JP Dellacamera is the guy who should leave. While he seems like a good guy, and there's nothing wrong with the content of his comments, his inflection makes it sound like he is a soccer god revealing to his listeners the ultimate truth about the game, even when he is saying something inane. Listening to him drives me crazy. They could do a lot better than JP.
  1. Frank Millard
    commented on: February 11, 2008 at 9:59 a.m.
    Eric would make a great coach, I think he missed his calling by going the broadcasting route and I will miss him as an announcer, he is extremely entertaining in my opinion, he always makes me laugh with his candor. I especially agree with the above comment about "professional fouls" but they all laud these lapses in ethics. I hate "professional fouls" it takes away potentially higher scoring games among but thats why they are professionals they are being paid more to win and to win at "All costs" even the cost of personal and team integrity. Its like saying its okay to drive 90 miles an hour if you are going to be late for work and get docked in pay, while putting not only yourself but others in harms way. In my opinion all professional fouls should be automatic red cards. I think no matter what Eric will find his way, I hope its back to the pitch where he belongs coaching, in Columbus would be my hope.
  1. Stefan Schuette
    commented on: February 23, 2008 at 2:11 p.m.
    In an interview he did with Marcelo Balboa on "From the pitch", he said he's going to get involved in coaching youth soccer at a local level. He had interesting things to say about the state of US Soccer, including what the problem is with young up and coming players attitudes. I really hope he can get into a professional coaching position, he's definitely got what it takes. As far as with work in the broadcast booth, I wasn't too crazy about it. I'm also not too crazy about John Harkes. I've never heard Bruce Arena's work, but he is slated to be an ESPN analyst next season. I love JP Dellacamera, he did indoor soccer in the 80's, I think he called some NASL games on the radio, he's been calling US Soccer games for 20 years now, he's as good as it gets. I love Ray Hudson, ESPN needs to bring him in the booth in my opinion. The PPC games were called by Adrian Healey(PbP) and Allen Hopkins(Analyst), perhaps an audition to be regulars in the ESPN booth for the upcoming season? I didn't mind them at all, I'm actually an Adrian Healey fan, and I enjoy Allen Hopkins for the most part... I think Tommy Smyth won't be doing MLS games anymore, which is unfortunate, I like him, but then again he's always been off and on with MLS, so he'll be back eventually. As far as analysts go, I haven't really liked Marcelo Balboa, Eric Wynalda, or John Harkes, but I really enjoyed Julie Foudy's work. I say make her a regular.
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