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Coverage has local flavor

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 15, 2011

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ESPN kicks off the 16th season of Major League Soccer tonight, and most of its on-air talent and some primary behind-the-scenes personnel furthered their careers during the early years of Revolution broadcasts.

Play-by-play announcer Adrian Healey was doing Revolution games when his current color commentator, John Harkes, was performing in the Revolution midfield. Studio hosts Alexi Lalas (the team’s first allocated player in 1996) and Taylor Twellman (the team’s all-time leading scorer) figure prominently in Revolution history.

Healey got his start calling Swindon Town games for hospital radio stations in England, and then became a disc jockey with WBCN and WFNX in Boston.

“We really felt like we were pioneers in those early days,’’ Healey said. “I was doing a show called ‘Rock and Goal’ for a station out of Charlestown in 1998, and at first we were wondering if anyone was listening. But the response was great and Boston was a great place to be for the embryonic years of the league.’’

ESPN’s soccer coverage has increased under executive vice president John Skipper and senior vice president and executive producer Jed Drake.

Concord’s Amy Rosenfeld, ESPN’s coordinating producer for soccer, started as a freelancer for MLS teams in 1997, receiving instruction on shooting replays from Roslindale’s Bob Frattaroli, who will direct tonight’s broadcast.

“I never thought I would see this type of longevity and growth, all the soccer-specific stadiums,’’ Rosenfeld said. “The sport has come of age, even though I say that with lower-case letters, because I am always hesitant to say it’s really arrived. But something has changed at ESPN and a huge part of it is John Skipper, he really put himself out there. Based on the success of the World Cup 2010, he proved to be right.

“We have a lot of properties to the point where we’re almost a soccer network. I still go to Revs games as a fan, and I want to see the league succeed and for ESPN to be a good partner for the MLS. We hear that we don’t know anything about soccer — we actually do. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we love and care for the game, we’ve invested in having it succeed, financially and emotionally.’’

The New England influence doesn’t end there. Giovanni Savarese, a Revolution striker in 1999, will be doing color commentary for ESPN Deportes. And, as the season continues, Fox Soccer Channel’s team will include Waltham native JP Dellacamera on play-by-play, plus former Revolution players Brian Dunseth and Eric Wynalda, and former US national team midfielder Kyle Martino, who is from Westport, Conn.

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