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
A 50-minute delay due to the Crew Stadium scoreboard catching fire could not deny the Black & Gold its first home win of 2013.
Instead, the blaze sparked an energy in the stadium that lifted the Crew past last week's disappointing 1-0 loss right out of the gates against D.C. United. The Black & Gold exploded for three first half goals from Dominic Oduro, Josh Williams and Federico Higuaín to defeat the Crew's long-time rivals.
"At the end of the day, I think maybe that's what we needed," Oduro said. "We needed that fire to fire ourselves up for the game."
Unsure at the time whether the match would go on or not, the 14,090 fans in attendance stayed to cheer on the Black & Gold. With no functioning public address system because of the inferno, the Crew Supporters Union, Hudson Street Hooligans and La Turbina Amarilla led a rousing rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" from the Nordecke to set the stage for the night to come.
"I really enjoyed the National Anthem, when the crowd started singing it," Ghanaian forward Dominic Oduro said after the match. "As a player, I had goosebumps during that time. It was fantastic. The crowd really helped us out today."
The Crew faced a similar predicament in 2012 following a summer thunderstorm that ravaged Central Ohio and knocked out power in most of Columbus. Despite a two-hour postponement, the Black & Gold's match against Real Salt Lake went on as the Crew defeated Jason Kreis' team 2-0 before a sell-out crowd on June 30 of last year. Once again, the Crew and its fans stepped up in a time of uncertainty.
"[The fans] are just always there for us," Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers said. "I think back to last year when we almost had the game canceled or postponed because of the storm. Same situation. They're supportive, they're behind us no matter what."
Added goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum: "Last year, we played Salt Lake and we had that power outage. We kind of had to re-focus there. I don't know if it worked to our advantage or not, but we came out and played a solid game. I think we did that again tonight."
ARRIETA MAKES STRONG RETURN TO STARTING XI
After coming off the bench in the Crew's last three matches, Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta made a return to Robert Warzycha's starting XI on Saturday night and proved to be a handful for D.C. United defenders. Arrieta was involved in all three of the Crew's first half goals: providing an easy tap-in for Oduro in the 15th minute, forcing the corner kick that led to Williams' goal in the 26th minute by feeding Oduro again after beating D.C. leftback Daniel Woolard off the dribble and finally drawing the foul that resulted in Higuaín's converted penalty in the 45th minute.
In combining with Higuaín and Oduro in the final third, Arrieta helped give fans a glimpse of what the Crew attack is capable of when everything is clicking.
"We've been working really hard this week, trying as much as possible to get something going on together," Oduro explained. "I think this was a breakthrough. I think through all the games we've been playing together, this is the one where we combined really well.
"I want to say this is the genesis of how the three of us, me, [Arrieta] and Higuaín, we try to combine our forces to play."
Arrieta re-entered the starting lineup feeling he had something to prove to Warzycha.
"It's important that I talked to my wife about it, about the fact that whenever I had the opportunity [to start] again to show that I want to play, show that I have to play. I'm satisfied with today's job," he said.
In turn, Warzycha was happy to see his co-leading scorer from 2012 back in top-form.
"He was very active," the Head Coach said. "Not only was he involved in the goals, but he kept the defense very honest."
Warzycha added: "He's very highly motivated every single game. He does exactly the same. He's working hard. He likes the physical contact, so he does exactly the same. But sometimes, he's just more successful. Actually he was just a little bit sharper, a little bit successful with his passing, with his runs."
DEFENSE RECORDS SECOND SHUTOUT
Not to be outdone by the Crew's offensive onslaught on Saturday night, Andy Gruenebaum and the Black & Gold defense recorded its second shutout of the season. For the second-straight match, Gruenebaum made six saves to help anchor his team.
"I think we have the talent, both at the back and going forward to keep possession and shut out teams," the Crew 'keeper said.
"If we can get a zero on our end, we'll let the other side take care of itself. It's nice to get a clean sheet again."