One of the unique aspects of watching Cosmos games on ONE World Sports is the carousel of broadcasters put forth by the network. From Mike Petke to Janusz Michallik, the announcers are unbelievably knowledgeable soccer minds, but they largely come across as seasoned professionals trying not to favor the home side. Although it is a pleasure hearing some of their soccer related insights, there is an unmistakable neutrality that makes the broadcasts sound a bit cold and distant. Truth be told, this is fine, as simply having the games in my living room more than makes up for any shortcomings I might find in the commentary.
Nonetheless, listening to Shep Messing is a whole different experience. When he is doing a Cosmos game, it's like having a buddy in the living room talking about the team, much like Mets games are with Keith Hernandez pairing Gary Cohen and Ron Darling. Is this an exaggeration? Hell no! When JP Dellacamera is talking about the Cosmos, he's typically unemotional and analytical. Sure, he'll tell you what is going on – he's a pro, and an excellent one at that. For me, though, can be a bit mechanical, and needs a passionate fan to make his commentary really click.
Shep seems to internalize all that the Cosmos are doing, whether on the field or off, he is invested in their success. During games, you can hear the excitement in his voice when something positive occurs for the team. A great example was during the Havana game when his commentary was more emotion than analysis. He wasn’t talking about the game, sure he mentioned what was happening on the field, but his real strength was conveying the experience from the player point of view. None of the other regular cast of announcers would have been able to translate what the Cuba trip meant to the Cosmos, not even close. But listening to Shep was like pulling one of the guys off the field and having him describe what was happening.
Although Shep is a homer in every sense of the word, he is also critical during games when necessary. He doesn’t whitewash poor play during games or attack referees, he also tempers the fans when they begin to call for players being called up to the US Men’s National Team with an honest assessment of that player. But what Shep brings that fan perspective that JP and Janusz just can't...his comments are mostly positive, but they are not blind endorsements.
In a US soccer environment that often ignores the Cosmos, nothing beats having someone with Shep’s credentials and fame on your side. He is the perfect blend of fan, club legend, and critical analyst, and the fanbase is lucky to have him.