Chris Lidholm, who announces NSC Minnesota games with partner Buzz Lagos, was kind enough to take time out to answer some questions for the NASL Fanatic. . In Part 1 of the interview, Chris shared some background about his life and his soccer experiences. In this installment, Chris talks about his preparation for announcing games on the Stars’ online streams and other thoughts about USSF D2 soccer.
NASL Fanatic: You have been involved with announcing soccer for years, beginning with the Minnesota Thunder. How and when did you get your start?
Chris: My involvement in announcing for the Thunder came about in the Winter of 1993. Head Coach Buzz Lagos called and told me that ownership wanted to put Thunders games on television. Since I knew the sport and was in studying broadcasting at Brown College in Minneapolis, they were interested in me announcing the Thunder games, and announced Thunder games and now the new NSC Minnesota Stars games ever since. Buzz and I knew each other prior to his call — I had trained with some of the Thunder players (Manny Lagos, Tony Sanneh, Amos Magee and others) in informal “pick up” sessions over the years.
NASL Fanatic: I really enjoy the work that you and Buzz do announcing NSC games. (Buzz retired from coaching in 2005), and I especially appreciate how well prepared you guys are in knowing the players on the opposing team. What do you do to get ready to announce a game?
Chris: My preparation for each game usually starts a day or two before the game. I’m usually getting my rosters, stats, etc. together and then I will check out websites, like NASL Fanatic, for any local/inside information about the Stars’ opponents. I have an advantage each game. I only have to spend my time learning one team’s roster because I already know the Stars’ roster.
When you listen to our webcasts, you will notice I don’t throw out a lot of stats during the game. I might mention number of goals a player has scored or if he has received his 5th yellow card, but that’s about it. I want to focus my attention on what is happening on the field in front of me because that is what our viewers are focused on, too. No one wants to listen to announcers talk, at length, about non-game related stories.
NASL Fanatic: Having watched USSF D2 live streams of games across North America this season, it seems pretty easy to encounter technical problems on the broadcast. From what I’ve seen, the NSC Minnesota Stars’ live streaming of games have been able to avoid those problems? How has that happened?
Chris: There are a variety of things that can go wrong, but we have been rather fortunate this season not to have any major problems. I give all the credit to our technical crew, Scott Wittrock, Scott Clasen and Jake Frantzen for keeping our webcasts running smoothly each and every game. Buzz and I have it easy. We walk into the stadium, usually about two hours before kickoff, prepare our notes, put the headsets on and talk for 90 minutes. It’s the two Scotts and Jake, not to forget our camera crew, that have everything up and running by the time I arrive at the stadium.
NASL Fanatic: You guys do a good job of being impartial during your announcing of the game…which I find amazing considering that both you and Buzz have such a long-term relationship with soccer in Minnesota, and the fact that Buzz’s son Manny coaches the Stars. How difficult is it to be impartial?
Chris: For me, being impartial is not too tough. For Buzz, it can be a bit of a challenge. However, he is doing much, much better at being impartial. You have to remember that he has given so much of himself to the Thunder and he is very emotionally attached and wants whatever professional team to succeed. I want our professional soccer team to succeed, too, but I’m just not as deeply connected as Buzz is.
Actually, he is sometimes way tougher on the home team. I try to be a good counterbalance for Buzz. I think we have a good chemistry on-air, he is a wonderful guy to work with each and every game and has just a wealth of soccer knowledge. I believe we do a pretty good job of being evenly critical and complimentary of every player on the field, regardless of which uniform they are wearing.
Basically, the philosophy we try to take with each webcast is “If you do well, we’ll acknowledge it. If you don’t do well, we’ll acknowledge it.”
NASL Fanatic: Chris, what is your feel for the level of play in USSF D2 this season in comparison to past USL-1 seasons, and compared to MLS?
Chris: One thing I enjoy about the level of play in USSF D2 this year and USL-1 in the past is that the whole league is pretty even. Every game is going to be competitive. There are no patsy teams. When you walk into the stadium or turn on the webcast, you know you are in for a very good game.
I enjoy watching MLS, but there is something about USSF D2 that I prefer. Maybe it’s because the guy wearing the NSC Minnesota, AC St. Louis or Austin Aztex jersey is out there busting his butt for the love of the game, the fans and some decent money. I believe a fair amount of MLS guys are playing for the money and that’s it. I know the Stars players put in some long days conducting camps in addition to playing and practicing.
NASL Fanatic: Are there any players that you’ve particularly enjoyed watching this season?
Chris: I have enjoyed the play of Stars’ midfielder Kentaro Takada this year. He played in the PDL last season for the Rochester (MN) Thunder and is now starting for the Stars and has demonstrated good passing and workrate. Brian Cvilikas is another Stars player that has really stood out for me for his workrate all over the field. He’s a forward, but you’ll see him making tackles in the Stars’ defensive third or along the sidelines. Having grown up playing goal, I’m always a fan of the goalkeepers in USSF D2 I truly appreciate the athleticism it takes to tip a ball away that is headed for the upper 90 or the guts it takes to run and jump into a crowd and pick a corner kick off a forward’s head.
NASL Fanatic: Finally, are there any particular players or teams (soccer or in other sports) that you root for?
Chris: I don’t really have a specific soccer team I root for. I’m really just an overall soccer fan. I love the sport and the passion of the fans. My oldest son is a huge Manchester United fan so, for fun, I will cheer for whichever team is playing Man U on any given day.
Outside of soccer, I enjoy lacrosse, hockey and football. I do like the Minnesota Wild and the Toronto Maple Leafs in hockey and the Vikings in football.
I would really like to see professional indoor soccer return to Minnesota someday. I attended a lot of Strikers games when they were here from 1984-1988 and played against teams like the Wichita Wings, San Diego Sockers, Dallas Tornado and St. Louis Steamers.
Thanks Chris, for sharing with our readers.