Carlos Alvarado: One Voice, One Life

If you've ever managed to hear an FC Dallas match in Spanish, I guarantee you’ve heard Carlos Alvarado, the Spanish voice for FC Dallas since 1996. With Salvadoran roots, his career with the hoops marks a phase of learning, dedication, loyalty and above all, demonstrates the passion for the sport of soccer. 

There are a few commentators who have been in MLS since day one and Alvarado is, as he says, among those fortunate few. He has never missed a game since his start with the Dallas Burn.

You may know other commentators within MLS, Joe Tutino, the voice for the english radio of the LA Galaxy since 1997 or maybe you heard of Carlos Cesar Rivera, who is a part of the San Jose Earthquakes, but this is the story of an icon within the few Latinx at FC Dallas. This is the life of Carlos Alvarado, who tells us with a genuine smile, “23 years with this franchise, who would of thought? I live day-to-day, game-to-game as Oscar Pareja says about the matches.”

Alvarado was born and began his career in Usulután, Salvador, known for it’s agriculture, took his first steps into local radio in 1984. As he began his journey, he aimed for a variety of goals, which he knew he would accomplish, but some of them would be achieved sooner than expected. 

"I reached many objectives at an early age like, making it to the 'YSKL,' the best radio in El Salvador by the age of 25, but I reached that goal at the age of 20. Even if my goal was 25, when you make it, you realize you will never be fully ready or entirely prepared for the challenge," he said. "When I first started in the radio at El Salvador, I narrated 100 miles per hour, that’s the way you commentate over there. The first soccer game that I took a part of was in 1985 and I have to admit it sounded like a lottery game because I did not talk beyond the numbers. I’ve made so many mistakes."

Over the years, those mistakes would become lessons learned. In just a year of working in the field, he would receive the opportunity of a lifetime and go from commentating games on local radio, to a nationwide audience. From 1985 to 1990, he would call an average of 25 matches per tournament in the first and second division teams of El Salvador.

Alvarado, who then decided to try his luck in the United States, arrived to California to continue his career, but fate prepared him for something different, his career as an announcer would continue in the Lone Star State. When arriving to Texas, he realized it was a state with a lot of diversity in terms of nationalities, to which he did not hesitate to learn. 

"I tried my luck on local radio stations, worked through the night shift as a DJ in the regional Mexican format and that is when I said: 'If you want to eat from a career in radio, then you have to learn about the Mexican culture.'" Alvarado said. "That's where it was a cultural shock. I learned the Mexican culture. I mean, I never learned to eat jalapeños, but that allowed me to know them, love them and for them to want me and to be accepted."

That process of learning about the Mexican culture gave a spin to the style he brought from his home country as a sportscaster, he said. Each talent and each person has a different style. His way of speaking, the gestures, the words used in a match. Either emphasizing “GOL" or "ZAMBOMBAZO." Something that Carlos himself understood as the years passed.  

"I say it for the young people who are starting, they need to know that we all go through certain experiences. We’ve all been sent to fetch water before we get the microphone and let’s not forget beginners nerves. I learned through colleagues, which I appreciate their constructive criticism and questioned my style of commentating. They reminded me to take into account that the main audience was Mexican. So, I continued presenting and making adjustments."

Alvarado would then go on to try his luck working in several local radio stations until, he was presented with an opportunity with the Dallas Burn. A chance he would not take for granted and did not imagine in that moment, that it would become a big part of his life. His career has been long within the franchise, he has managed to narrate for FC Dallas since the start of the MLS in 1996, a job offer he received just a few days before the start of the very first season of the Dallas Burn.

“The franchise and this job is quite anecdotal because back in 1996, with just 15 days left for the start of the league, the team had already been selected. The reporter, the analyst and the commentator were ready, but something did not feel right and I was encouraged to make a demo with my play-by-play calls. Only a very few people know that I did that demo in a radio studio. I remember that in that demo, I narrated a goal of Hugo Sanchez that was so spectacular that I was impressed with myself and I have to brag about it. I sent it, but I did it knowing that the broadcasters were chosen. Then a few days before the start of the season, I must give credit in this case to Andy Swift, former GM of the Burn and one of those who started this franchise with Billy Hicks, who was the first President of this team. When they called me and told me they want to talk to me, I was surprised. I was surprised because I did not believe it, not because I was not ready for the role, but because I practically didn't know anyone. I was working in radio but as a DJ in regional Mexican format."

Over the years, Alvarado has managed to see the change from the Dallas Burn to FC Dallas. The power to call goals from Bobby Rhine and Hugo Sanchez in the Cotton Bowl, as well as David Ferreira, Carlos "Pescadito" Ruiz and Maxi Urruti at the Toyota Stadium. He has managed to see the expansion of the MLS as he adds new team names in his narratives, from just 10 teams in 1996 to a 24th in 2019.

So many goals sung, but as an announcer you have the ability to narrate for 90 minutes. It's a form of art, it's a skill as they commentate all of the exciting and vibrant moves with the same voice quality. It is always important to have a technique so that the fans can hear a clear, powerful voice. One without fatigue, which makes us feel like we were in the stadium, which is very exciting.

"How do I take care of my voice well, I drink plenty of water, but lately I've brought ginger with honey and lemon, a tea," he said. "You've seen that cup because over the years I understand the singers. Over the years, you slowly lose everything. Your voice becomes more obscure. I don't narrate enough, one game per week, so a few people know that in my home studio I do my own games alone. I do it to stay fresh. Many colleagues have three, four or five games per week. I am privileged and only do one per week. That means there are only 34 matches plus playoffs per season but I do some in my house alone, either with video or imaginary in order to maintain my pace. Believe me, I do my preseason too."

Alvarado has been able to share with the fans moments of joy after raising the first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1997 and the first Supporters Shield in 2016. But, he also remembers the bittersweet taste of 2010. 

As a narrator, as a spectator, but especially as a fan, there is something that Carlos still awaits: an MLS Cup. The power to shout and say that the franchise which he has dedicated 23 years of his life achieved the goal of raising that cup. Even more knowing that he was so close to achieving that goal in 2010, falling to the Colorado Rapids.

"The hardest thing has been waiting to raise the Cup. I think not only for the fans but also for me and having been so close in 2010. I think that has been the hardest thing for me. Now, we enjoy good years of television which takes care of bringing everything. I traveled with the team for 10 years because there wasn't a lot of televisions that broadcasted the games. So there were not many options to watch the matches. I think the hardest thing of being with this franchise has been that. Not raising the MLS Cup and being patient, but at some point we will get it."

*Update: as of the 2019 season, Carlos Alvarado celebrates his 24th season with FC Dallas.