Kevin Egan’s path to 1 AMB Drive, home of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, started at Ennafort Road in Raheny, Ireland. There would be many turns along the career path for the Atlanta United television play-by-play announcer.
In his first soccer memory, Egan’s parents would let the 9-year-old stay up until midnight to watch the games of the 1994 World Cup. A fan of Italian legend Roberto Baggio – Egan’s parents bought him a “USA ’94” hat that included a Baggio-like ponytail hanging down the back – he watched Ireland defeat Italy 1-0 in its opening game at Giants Stadium.
“It was just absolutely amazing,” said.
It was there on Ennafort Road, playing soccer in the street with the gaggle of neighborhood youth, where his first memories of soccer developed.
They would play. The sky would darken. The lights would come on.
Egan’s father, Liam, after a long day running his food-ingredients business, would come home. Sometimes he would kick the ball with the kids.
Then Egan’s mom, Kathy, her Chicago accent piercing the dusk, would scream that it was time for him to come home.
You can take the boy and his soccer ball off the street, but you can’t take him away from the sport.
Perhaps it was imprint of that game on television that later made Egan dedicate himself to creating a career in broadcast journalism.
The path led to May 20, 2017. Atlanta United vs. Houston. Egan’s first home game as the TV play-by-play man for the team on Fox Sports South on its fourth game with the club.
Oh, it was also Egan’s birthday.
It was an epic game.
A thunderstorm delayed the match at Bobby Dodd Stadium for 55 minutes.
And then Atlanta United opened up.
A hat trick from Miguel Almiron that included Egan’s second-best call with the team on the midfielder’s first goal: “A peach from the Paraguayan.”
While the call was alliterative artistry, the memory stands out to Egan because, though he lived in Miami and was employed full-time by beIN sports, he felt at home.
“From that day, I’ve felt so unbelievably welcome,” he said.
Maybe that feeling is because it’s hard not to like Egan. It seems he’s always smiling with a glow like the halo board at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He’s consistently polite, asking about family. He’s unfailingly complimentary, giving credit for success to producers and associates.
Lastly, he’s appreciative, which is because of the first turn on his path from Ireland to Atlanta.
Egan was in college studying journalism. He was a good football player. While playing Gaelic football, his father’s love, Egan suffered a torn ACL. The surgeon told him he would be out for a year.
“I was absolutely devastated,” he said.
His football dream prematurely over, he began pursuing a career. He went to as many TV stations as possible.
He got into a political show called “Questions and Answer.”
Politics? Egan had no idea.
“I was so football-oriented,” he said.
But he was fascinated by TV’s operations. He asked someone for a copy of the script, called the “run down.” The phone numbers of everyone who worked on the show behind the scenes were on the run down.
Egan got an idea.
He used those numbers and began calling everyone who worked for the show.
He accidentally called the same person twice.
It was a blessing.
That person told Egan about a new agency that hires production runners. They are the people that do the most basic of jobs.
Egan got a job making tea and coffee for an Olympic-themed show in 2004 on the Irish channel RTE.
“When I saw that red light go on and I was in studio, the buzz and chills, I knew this was an industry I had to stay involved in somehow,” he said. “I still feel that way.”
Tea and coffee.
“Absolutely amazing,” Egan said.
Egan cheerfully described his role as the lowest of the low. But, fitting his personality, he discovered the positives. He had access to every room. He got to meet everyone involved with the show. He learned every name, every role, every responsibility.
“A lot of people want to go straight on air,” he said. “When you work from inside up you garner a better understanding of the industry, which is crucial.”
The next turn in the path to Atlanta involved Chicago.
It was 2009. Egan moved to the city of his mother’s birth and where her parents lived, less than a mile from Wrigley Field.
Egan spent six months looking for a TV job.
He finally landed a job as a graphics producer for the Big Ten Network.
Still in love with soccer, he volunteered to produce a weekly online soccer show.
The path continued.
He joined the Chicago Fire as a sideline reporter in 2012 and became the color commentator the next season.
That led to him joining beIN in 2015 as a studio host and match commentator. He was fortunate to visit some of soccer’s cathedrals: the Bernabeu. Camp Nou.
He learned lessons at both jobs that he tries to apply as the play-by-play announcer with Atlanta United.
Drawing on that first job, Egan said a key is realizing that he is dealing with people. Accuracy on air, crediting a goal to the correct player, is as important as knowing who likes one lump of sugar in their coffee.
Another is to be prepared, which starts with being humble.
“You don’t know everything,” he said. “You have to invest in every single day of your life.”
Egan lives that mantra. Before games, an admitted conversationalist, he makes a lot of calls so that he can be as prepared as possible. He calls other broadcasters. He calls supporters of both teams. He lines up interviews with opposing coaches. He watches previous games. He calls Dan Gargan, who works as the commentator for Atlanta United’s games on Fox Sports South, so that their transitions are mostly seamless while on the air.
“When you’ve worked behind the scenes and done the different jobs, you have an appreciation for what’s going on,” he said.
While hosting “The Xtra” on beIN, Atlanta United President Darren Eales and Vice President Carlos Bocanegra were booked as guests. It was their first meeting. It wouldn’t be their last.
Another turn in Egan’s path soon followed.
Atlanta United had hired the famed Alan Green as its TV play-by-play man for 2017. But Green couldn’t join until partway through the season.
Egan must have impressed Eales and Bocanegra.
Egan was called and asked if he would consider filling in Green for the first few games in 2017.
Though Egan had called games featuring world-class talents such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he missed MLS.
With beIN’s blessing, he accepted Atlanta United’s offer of temporary employment.
When it was over – and he knew it was going to end – he was devastated. He wanted the job full-time.
“To do the first five, to feel a connection with Atlanta and the fans, maybe because it was the first season. ... I just felt such a huge level of love,” he said.
The path hadn’t ended.
Green didn’t return to Atlanta United following the inaugural season.
Egan was hired.
The path is in a detour right now amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down most sports around the world.
Egan and his family - his wife Meg, who he met in Chicago in 2009 and who he describes as the rock of the family, and son James - recently moved into a house in Roswell. When not unpacking boxes, he is watching some of the Atlanta United games that are being re-broadcast on Fox Sports South on Sundays. This week’s game will be from Sept. 18, 2019 against Cincinnati.
Watching and critiquing, Egan notes that Mercedes-Benz Stadium is an immense building. He feels the job done by Fox Sports South matches the grandeur of the billion-dollar venue. He said everyone on the crew, from those who make coffee and tea, camera operators to those in the production truck, also are Atlanta United supporters. They are vested.
“Such a good sense of feeling and smell for occasion of Atlanta United,” he said. “Hopefully I complement that.”
Egan is self-critical. He said there are more than a million things he could do better.
One thing he has learned calling games at 1 AMB Drive is that less can be more. A big part of TV play-by-play is not to get in the way.
That brings the path back to Aug. 19, 2018. Atlanta United vs. Columbus. Josef Martinez joins history by scoring his 27th goal to tie MLS single-season record. Egan considers it his best call.
But, before the call, a little back story.
Egan doesn’t often script his calls. He prefers things to be natural.
But he knew that if Martinez scored two goals he would break the league record. Egan felt, because of the weight of the possible moment, he should have something ready. He didn’t want to get in the way of the moment. He didn’t want it to be about him. It was about Martinez.
Remember that Egan likes to be prepared.
No one was prepared for what happened.
Julian Gressel won the ball. He passed it to Martinez. Columbus’ Lalas Abubakar began tracking back toward his goal.
Martinez took the ball with his left foot and curled a shot from outside the penalty box around Abubakar and past goalkeeper Zach Steffen.
Egan’s call was direct and accurate: “Martinez, 27 goal record. The Venezuelan has it.”
It wasn’t what he scripted. Egan tried to remember what he had written. He couldn’t.
“I don’t think I would have been able to do that a year or two previously,” he said. “I wouldn’t have trusted my gut. It was a simple call, clean and concise. Josef celebrated, and the 17s (Atlanta United supporters) went nuts. That’s why I’m probably most proud. I didn’t butcher it.”
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