Johnson to make FOX Soccer debut
One of America’s most distinctive and dynamic sportscasters calls his first-ever match for FOX Soccer on Wednesday, Feb. 13 when FOX Sports' renowned play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson calls the highly anticipated UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Real Madrid and Manchester United, live from Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at 2 p.m. ET.
The assignment is the first in a series of Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League matches Johnson is expected to call, including the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League Finals, May 11 and 25, respectively, on FOX.
Johnson, who has become a household name among sports fans for his memorable calls and signature catchphrases, has spent most of his career covering professional and collegiate sports, including football, basketball, baseball and boxing, among others. Calling soccer, however, is a relatively new undertaking.
“Over the past 20 years Gus has cemented himself as an iconic American sports broadcaster, and we’re thrilled to welcome his style to the world soccer stage,” said David Nathanson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of FOX Soccer. “Gus has spent the last year-and-a-half getting ready to call what is a new sport for him, and I applaud the work, study and time he’s devoted to his preparation. He respects how passionate and knowledgeable the soccer fan is, and while his education continues, he’s ready to lend his classic American voice to the world’s biggest sport.”
Since accepting this new challenge, Johnson has tapped several resources in his effort to learn as much as possible in such a short period of time. He called over a dozen MLS games on radio, mostly those of the San Jose Earthquakes; he has played pick-up soccer games in a park near his Manhattan home; spent several weeks in Europe last season attending games and conversing at length with Sky Sports executives and world-class football play-by-play announcer Martin Tyler. In Madrid, Johnson is partnering with FOX Soccer analyst Warren Barton, who in his playing days appeared in more than 300 Premier League matches. Barton, along with former players Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones have aided Johnson tremendously in his soccer broadcasting education, collaborating with him on numerous practice telecasts under the tutelage of FOX Soccer Executive Producer Jonty Whitehead.
“No doubt that the followers of this sport are among the most passionate, knowledgeable fans in the world, and I’m a newcomer,” said Johnson. “The effort to learn the sport and absorb its nuance has been a humbling experience. While I’ve put a lot of time into my preparation thus far, it’s definitely going to take a lot of reps before I’ve mastered soccer’s rhythm and pace, but I am determined to do so, and with all the support I’m receiving I have no doubt that I will.”
In addition to Johnson’s Feb. 13 assignment in Madrid, he’s scheduled to call another UEFA Champions League match, this one between Arsenal and Bayern Munich, on Feb. 19 with analyst Ray Clemence and a Barclays Premier League game featuring Manchester City and Chelsea on Feb. 24 with Lee Dixon as analyst.
Since joining FOX Sports in 2011 Johnson has been a staple of the network’s college football (Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, and Conference USA) and NFL productions. Recently, he was on the call for memorable moments such as Texas A&M’s 41-13 trouncing of Oklahoma in the 77th Cotton Bowl Classic, USC’s high-scoring 62-51 loss to Oregon last November, and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez’s 76-yard touchdown run in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game.