How Nashville SC broadcasters Tony Husband, Jamie Watson strike perfect balance in booth

Drake Hills
Nashville Tennessean

Tony Husband loves history.

A stride away from steps leading to an elevated platform inside Gate 4, pinned behind Section 144 at Nissan Stadium, the Nashville SC lead commentator is sporting a royal blue suit over his white shirt and crimson red tie, reading his note cards made for the pregame show as Nashville hosted Orlando City SC on Sept. 29.

Husband prepared for the game — a key matchup with MLS Cup Playoff implications — amidst Nashville's push to become just the fifth Major League Soccer expansion franchise to reach the postseason in each of its first two years. Husband has balanced that with calling some of Nashville's individual feats, like midfielder Hany Mukhtar scoring the first hat trick in club history in August. That sort of history excites him. 

From Devon, England, in the southwest U.K., the former BBC Sport broadcaster of more than 20 years assumed his post with Nashville in spring 2020, joining former MLS and USL midfielder Jamie Watson, Nashville's color analyst. Behind the scenes, this duo with four decades of soccer expertise balances covering the present highlights with storytelling for the future.

“When Hany Mukhtar scores a hat trick within the first quarter of an hour of a game, you're calling it there and then, and you're going with the emotion of the moment," Husband said. "But professionally, you're aware, ‘Well this is something that's going to go in the vault. They may be rolling this out in 50 years’ time, so I want to make sure I did it justice.' "

Watson is well acquainted with MLS expansion teams – as a player and as a broadcaster. He won USL championships with Orlando in 2011 and 2013, prior to its MLS expansion in 2015. He went on to play for Minnesota United FC between 2014-16 and made his MLS broadcast debut in 2017 during the club's first MLS season.

Watson's time on soccer sidelines in the Twin Cities prepared him for his analyst role in the booth at Nissan Stadium. He was once given a handheld microphone with a 'talk' button, meaning he had only one hand for game notes.

Rather than several pages on both teams, he shaved it down to one note card. It taught Watson, a 2005 first round pick by Real Salt Lake, to be prepared while being concise.

"You need to be able to have credibility with that top 1% of soccer IQ, but also you need to be able to say it in a way that the first-time person can watch it and goes, 'I'm now smarter because of what you said, I understand something now because of the way you said it'," Watson said. "For a second-year team in Major League Soccer, there still is an element of education, so it is knowing who it is that you're broadcasting to."

Such a task requires days of preparation. In soccer, when there are occasionally three matches in eight days, studying sometimes begins two matches prior. Husband and Watson began their preparation for Orlando while in Chicago the Saturday before, one day before Nashville faced Chicago Fire FC.

They watched Orlando's match against the New England Revolution from their hotel, jotting down tactical and personnel notes. By matchday, Husband arrives at Nissan Stadium more than four hours before kickoff, sits in the broadcast production room alone, preparing for all 20 possible players who could play from one team.

Husband and Watson relish covering a new MLS club, and doing so in person. They began building chemistry during the league shutdown in 2020 by calling old matches together from the MLS vault. Now, Husband and Watson are adding to it.

"Who knows what soccer commentary is going to sound like in 50 years. It might be a little bit different to this," Husband said. "I really love the fact that this is, in MLS terms, a new club. And we're right at the start, right in the history because back where I come from, the clubs have been there 120 years. You're just a footnote, really, whereas here, you're part of something at the very beginning and you're hopefully setting it off into a good place."

For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.