Dave Johnson, the longtime voice of D.C. United, on the new era of MLS broadcasting

Dave Johnson's run as D.C. United's play-by-play man for TV broadcasts since its 1996 launch ended this season with MLS's Season Pass deal with Apple TV. But Johnson continues call to D.C. United games on WTSD (1190 AM), WONK (104.7 FM), 101.1 on HD2 radio and the iHeartRadio streaming service.

SOCCER AMERICA: Although MLS Season Pass on Apple TV launched this season, fans can still listen to their local MLS broadcasters via iHeartRadio and through Apple TV. What has the reaction to the local D.C. United broadcast that you do been like?

DAVE JOHNSON: I've talked to other announcers around the league - listening to it both ways have been very popular.

My Twitter feed blows up every game, so, anecdotally I can tell you stories of a guy who was on Southwest flight and he was thankful he had the iHeartRadio app so that he was able to listen even though he was flying.

Another one is that there was a problem with the sync on Saturday night and I was getting all these tweets, like, 'What's going on?' If no one was complaining, that wouldn't be good.

Right from the first game, what surprised is that people were saying, 'This is awesome.' They appreciate that they can still connect with their local announcers, which should know more about their team than anybody else.

In my case, it's especially important because I'm the only announcer associated with the team since day 1.

SA: As one of the most experienced broadcasters in the league, how'd you feel to be left out of Apple TV MLS Season Pass?

DAVE JOHNSON: I was bummed. I took it that it was a reflection of my work. It's like, I'm very grateful that I'm able to continue with the club that I announced the existence of before they even had a name. Maybe that's part of the overall plan, so to speak.

But yeah. Quite frankly, it was the biggest hurt of my professional life because I think I performed at a high level - and either that or I'm the biggest con man in the world after doing this for more than 30 years. My first professional broadcast was a Maryland Bays APSL game that paid to get on the air.

SA: Thoughts on the MLS All-Star game being in D.C? Excited to be involved?

DAVE JOHNSON: It's very exciting that it's coming to D.C. because we have in D.C. what I never thought we would have: a stadium that is maybe in the coolest neighborhood in the city. Forbes magazine called it the coolest stadium on the planet a few years ago. It's right on the water, down the street from where the Nationals play.

You throw in Arsenal, who are having an amazing year, and it just adds to the spice.

SA: Although it is only $15 for a Skills Challenge ticket, 2023 MLS All-Star game tickets, are averaging more than $400? You've been around a while, has it always been this expensive?

DAVE JOHNSON: I gotta admit, I can't remember. I'm sure not it was always this expensive. But in recent years, when you're talking about bringing Arsenals or Bayern Munichs, it doesn't surprise me. You gotta pay up. I'm talking to you from an NBA arena, where it's just a regular-season game and the cheapest ticket is $75. This is just a regular-season game.

SA: Any interactions with Wayne Rooney that you'd like to share? What kind of person is he to work with?

DAVE JOHNSON: It's probably a good thing I don't spend a lot of time with him because if you want to be a winning coach you shouldn't be talking to the broadcaster. What I discovered is that - and I've been around a lot of elite athletes that have achieved a lot, think Cal Ripken [one of the greatest shortstops of all time] or Michael Jordan when he was with the Wizards - it's no secret why he's achieved what he has. He works, I believe, harder than anyone. He's got tremendous skill, but his work ethic is now allowing him to have success as a manager.

The results aren't showing yet, but if you look at how they've played, certainly they were the better team against Orlando and I thought they were the better side against New England. And they lost, that's soccer. Sometimes you have to hope that on the nights you're not the better team, you actually win. I truly believe he will turn this around.

At Derby County, he kept losing players because of the team's financial situation. He stayed with it. If he left, no one would've blinked an eye. But he stayed with them. When you're around him you realize, this guy means business.

SA: Five games into the MLS season for D.C. United (1-3-1), what does the team need to change most to start getting results?

DAVE JOHNSON: It's the old cliche, but it really is just finish your chances. [Christian] Benteke is working like crazy and the chances are there. They just have to go in. Quite frankly, last week [against New England] when it was 1-1 you really felt like it was going to go D.C.'s way.

We have Taxi Fountas back now from injury - he was a sub last game - so I want to see now what Fountas and Benteke look like for 90 minutes. Not for five, or whatever.

Photos: D.C. United & Audi Field

6 comments about "Dave Johnson, the longtime voice of D.C. United, on the new era of MLS broadcasting".
  1. Bob Ashpole, March 30, 2023 at 10:34 p.m.

    ?Qual es el problema? :)

  2. John Foust, March 31, 2023 at 1:21 p.m.

    Class act, always has been

  3. Joe Kee, March 31, 2023 at 2:06 p.m.

    Two of the best feelings a DC United fan could have: raucous crowds and bouncing stands at RFK and Dave Johnson shouting "It's in the net!  It's in the net!!" from the TV.  Apple TV missed the mark in not picking up Dave for their broadcasts.  

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, March 31, 2023 at 4:55 p.m.

    Personally I hated the bouncing stands and drunk fans. I liked Dave though. But I won't be subscribing to Apple TV, ever. I stopped streaming ESPN3 when they put it behind a paywall and started charging ESPN subscribers extra. I don't support any of their imitators either. 

  5. humble 1 replied, April 3, 2023 at 1:25 p.m.

    Free country.  Will say, for the price of a ticket to a pro sporting event, $100, you get access to every game, and playoff game and the replays.  I was not high on the tactical change, leaving certain color and analyst talent behind, but the techincal change, the Apple TV platform, addresses all and more of the shortcomings at ESPN.  They cleaned up a lot of the syth turf fields, no more football markings, and they are brushing the plastic so it has the two way lines seen in nat grass fields as well.  Superficial, but, crucial changes to productize. People dining behind goal, and folding chair seating on the field level is maybe good revenue for clubs, but still, very silly looking, otherwise, much better visuals.

  6. Tom A, April 2, 2023 at 7:32 a.m.

    @ Bob...I bet you're fun at parties. 

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