Now entering his seventh year as the radio play-by-play announcer for Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, Neil Sika has also spent the past nine years providing coverage of numerous NCAA Division I athletics.
Additionally, he has worked several national and regional events on television (Big Ten Network, STO, TWC) and radio (Monarch Sports).
Buckeyes, Blue Jackets and more
Kicking off Crew Stadium's 15th season, the Black & Gold secured a point against the San Jose Earthquakes in a 1-1 draw. Though the Crew was not victorious, the club extended its unbeaten streak in home openers to nine matches dating back to the 2004 season.
"You want to win your home opener," Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. "It's always full of excitement and you want to win those games in front of the fans and show them that they're in for a good year. I think they know it's still a possibility that we can do some good things this year."
Offseason addition Gláuber won over his new fans in his Crew Stadium debut, putting the Black & Gold ahead 1-0 in the 68th minute following a diving header past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch from Federico Higuaín's corner kick service.
"The run is different [on a diving header], but Higuaín has good corners. He makes our forwards really, really good and we need to do something positive with those balls," the Brazilian defender said.
"Today I made a goal and I hope to make more."
The celebration was short-lived, however, as the Earthquakes answered five minutes later when leftback Justin Morrow was left all alone in the box to beat Gruenebaum for the equalizer. While disappointed in surrendering the lead, the Black & Gold were satisfied to get a point following a back-and-forth match with the defending MLS Supporters' Shield winners on a cold, windy March day in Columbus.
"It would've been nice to hold on to the one goal lead, but those were tough conditions out there, especially in the second half going against the wind against a good offensive team," Chad Marshall said after the match. "It was probably a fair result in the end."
SECOND YEAR EXPECTATIONS
For the second consecutive match, Ben Speas was an integral part of the Crew attack while filling in for an injured Eddie Gaven on the left side of midfield. The second-year winger earned Barbasol Man of the Match honors, while his fellow sophomore Ethan Finlay made his 2013 debut coming off the bench in the second half to spark the Black & Gold offense.
Robert Warzycha's faith in younger players has been reassuring to the second-year talents.
"Ben stepped in and did a great job. He deserved Man of the Match tonight, I'm really proud of him," Finlay said. "From a young guy's perspective it's great to see that. It's good to see that Coach is willing to put the young guys in the game to give us experience and opportunities."
In their second season, Speas and Finlay are working to keep devolping their skills at the professional level.
"I'm just continuing to do what I tried last year, just trying to be dangerous when I have the ball and do work on defense," Speas explained. "In terms of goals, you just have to take it one game at a time. It was nice to get the start again. I hope to make an impact. I felt like I did some nice things, but it's always got to be better."
Added Finlay: "You just want to find yourself on the field more consistently. You've got to be able to come in, contribute and fight for position."