Behind The Scenes

Fast Break: Taylor Twellman

It didn’t take Taylor Twellman long to establish himself among Major League Soccer’s prolific forwards.

In his MLS rookie season (2002), Twellman finished second in goals scored with 23. The St. Louis, Mo., native was named to his first MLS Best XI and helped carry underperforming New England Revolution to the first of its four MLS Cup appearances in six years –- the team’s most successful era (2002-2007).

Twellman’s career was cut short in 2010 after suffering from multiple concussions. About 18 months after retirement, he has transferred his passion and high work rate to new vocations: sports broadcasting and serving as a spokesperson for increased awareness about head injuries and concussions.

After Twellman spent one season calling Philadelphia Union matches on local television, ESPN named him its lead match analyst for MLS and U.S. National Team matches.

Leading into Twellman’s first MLS telecast since he became the lead English-language match analyst for the league and U.S. Men’s National Team, he sat down with Front Row to discuss a few topics, including his transition to television, his plan to help enhance the MLS on ESPN experience for fans.

On the transition to his new role as lead match analyst for MLS and U.S. National Team on ESPN…
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself this is all real. I have loved every second I have worked with ESPN and learning the business of television and my new role as a soccer analyst. I have only been in the business for the last 18 months or so, and to have been around so many good people who are exceptional and passionate about their work, I relish the opportunity. I can’t wait for the season to start. We will have great games, but I am really looking forward to the opportunity to grow tremendously.

Twellman (third from left) with host Bob Ley and analysts Alexi Lalas and Jorge Ramos

On criticizing the many of the players he just recently played with or against…
Nothing has changed from when I played to now. My motto is, don’t say anything about anyone that I wouldn’t say to their face and I have found that the players/coaches respect that a lot. However, I know at some point someone will have a problem with something I said. That is just the nature of the business. I am fine with it.

On his plan to enhance the MLS on ESPN experience for fans…
The concept of “less is more” is something I want to bring to this role. When you hear the best soccer commentators call games — I don’t want my voice to drown out the play-by-play commentator. I am aiming to be short and sweet and let viewers enjoy the game/telecast. Having the opportunity to work with the producers/directors at ESPN, I can only hope and expect that our telecasts will enhance the MLS product both on- and off-the-field.

In addition, Twitter will be a very fun aspect of how I intend to further engage fans through social media. I encourage fans to share their feedback, to both compliment and criticize during our telecast, and to engage me in some insightful MLS/soccer talk.

On whether the MLS is about to break through the clutter as a must-see event…
Soccer is breaking through simply when you see the games on television. Give me better sporting event atmospheres than in Seattle [Sounders], Portland [Timbers], Philadelphia [Union], Los Angeles [Galaxy], Houston [Dynamo], etc. These places and their teams now give fans an experience that MLS wasn’t really in a position to generate about 10 years ago.

The 17th season of Major League Soccer action on ESPN kicks off today at 9:30 p.m. ET, on ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes with the Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union match live from Portland, Ore. The match will be Twellman’s MLS debut as the company’s lead U.S. soccer match analyst.

Taylor Twellman (20) in action for the New England Revolution in 2008.
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