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Behind the Microphone: Broadcasting Soccer Games for Orlando City

Let’s talk about the ins and outs of being behind the microphone during a soccer match.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of my still-very-short broadcasting career, I have fortunately had the incredible opportunity of doing play-by-play for all three Orlando soccer teams. Last year, I was able to call two Orlando City B games, one Orlando Pride game, and one Orlando City match (on Real Radio 104.1). This past Saturday, I handled the play-by-play for OCB’s game vs. the Charlotte Independence and figured, why not write about just what goes into prepping for and broadcasting a soccer game?

Prep work for broadcasts will differ with most play-by-play guys, but for me, I take a few days to do as much research into both teams as possible. This would usually include all of the usual stats and story lines ahead of the games, plus a lot of tidbits of info on each player — where they’ve played before, any connections to other teams in the league, and any other fun facts I can find about the players.

Once I have the facts, I usually try to watch a few recent games from both teams. I watch how they shape up tactically, note the adjustments they make when ahead and behind, and keep track of some of the nuances that players like to do when with and without the ball. I make note of as much as I can without going into mind-numbing detail about each player.

For radio broadcasts, that also requires show prep for a pregame, halftime, and post-game show. This means essentially scripting out a radio show for before, during, and after the games and including talking points from guests who will text their reactions in to the show.

That’s just the preparation for the broadcasts. The actual games are something else entirely.

It’s easy just to read off a paper and state facts about the game. It’s another thing to try and work those stats and fun facts into the flow of the game. What I have found most helpful in those respects is having a good color commentator to keep the game flowing. Up to this point with broadcasting for Orlando City, I’ve had the chance to work with a different color analyst for every game I have done. It’s always different getting the balance between the analyst and myself, knowing when and how to organically bring up topics within the game, while also understanding how to bounce off each other and make the broadcast more enjoyable.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had four color commentators who are current youth and college coaches, and one former player. The insight they bring to the game makes calling the game a lot easier.

Now actually doing play-by-play is a totally different animal. I learned the hard way just how difficult it is to constantly pay attention to what is happening on the field and keep your mouth moving with coherent words at the same time. Since everything happens at a pretty fast pace, there’s really no time to think about what you’re going to say. You have to innately know who’s playing where and what number they’re wearing, then be able to smoothly transition the action from the field to the microphone in front of your face.

In addition, there are also the behind-the-scenes details throughout the broadcasts that I need to work with. For each broadcast, there is a director in my ear letting me know when and what replays are being shown, coordinating commercial breaks, and making sure I get all the in-game ad reads in on time.

Talking for 90-plus minutes is also something to get used to. I’ve been a radio co-host for the last five years and have done five-hour shows before for special occasions, but that doesn’t compare to the challenge of doing play-by-play. Water is obviously a huge help, since it’s a bit of a wear on your vocal chords once it’s all said and done.

This most recent game for OCB I called was the first one that I did at the new stadium. I called games over in Melbourne at Eastern Florida State and at the Citrus Bowl, but neither of them compared to Orlando City Stadium. It was really special for me having followed Orlando City since 2011 to be able to broadcast a game in the beautiful new stadium. I couldn’t help but stop and admire the place just before the game started and I found myself gushing about it on the air at multiple points. It was a truly memorable experience.

As I wrap this up, I need to give a shout out to Orlando City’s mainstay broadcaster Jeff Radcliffe, who has helped me acclimate to broadcasting Orlando City games and has given me important tips and pointers along the way. Also, I want to thank Orlando City Director of Broadcasting Marcos Peres, who has continued to give me the opportunity to do what I love to do.