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
On short rest and riding a three-match losing streak, the Crew needed the early lift provided by Bernardo Anor's fifth-minute tally from Federico Higuaín's corner-kick service against the Portland Timbers on Sunday as the Venezuelan headed home his second goal in as many games.
"It was the same, just like the one I scored against LA," Anor said after the match. "We're making the runs we're supposed to make, Pipa [Higuaín] is serving the ball like he's supposed to and things are resulting pretty good for us."
Six minutes after Anor's strike, the Black & Gold were in complete control as Portland went down a man following Pa-Modou Kah's straight red card after a reckless foul on Aaron Schoenfeld. The Crew hung on for the remaining 79-plus minutes for its third home win of the season. With the 1-0 victory, Columbus snapped the Timbers' 15-match unbeaten run and became just the second team to defeat the Timbers in 2013.
Following its 19th match of the season, the Crew has plenty of time to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Sunday's win was a much-needed punch in the arm for an inconsistent Columbus side that is hoping to find its identity in the summer months.
"Bobby [Warzycha] said some smart words before the game that, if you pay attention to, mean a lot," Anor said. "This is the start of the second half [of the season]. We have half of the games left. By winning this game, it means a lot.
"We have to keep it up and keep scoring the goals."
TRAPP MAKES STATEMENT IN DEBUT
Head Coach Robert Warzycha had only one training session to observe Wil Trapp since his return from representing the United States at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey before deciding to place him in the starting lineup on Sunday for his professional debut. Having watched Trapp progress through the Crew Soccer Academy, Warzycha knew what he was getting when the Gahanna native signed with the First Team last winter.
"After [Trapp] came back from Turkey, we gave him some time off," Warzycha explained. "We didn't want to throw him on the field right away. I think he enjoyed the few days off. Obviously, he stepped on the field and he did very well.
"We knew what he can do and what kind of player he is. He grew up here in Columbus, so it was a matter of time of when he would step on the field and do the job. He's a good player."
Trapp's experience in Turkey against the best Under-20 players in the world provided a difficult test ahead of his MLS debut. With the confidence of captaining the U.S. to a 1-1 draw with France in the tournament, Trapp was sure his talents could carry over to his play with the Crew.
"I think the games I played in Turkey prepared me very well for this game," Trapp said after the match. "Still, you're playing against men here so it's never easy to adjust, but I think those games really helped me be ready for this one."
In front of his friends and family, Trapp was one of six Ohio natives in the Crew's starting lineup as he earned Barbasol Man of the Match honors for his performance.
"I think I underestimated the feeling you would get when you step on the field in front of your friends and family," the 20-year-old midfielder said. "It was awesome to see my parents in the stands and my friends, girlfriend -- all that kind of stuff, it was great.
"I think because I had so many people here, they were probably just texting away on [Man of the Match voting]. It's awesome to be recognized for that."
Starting goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was a last minute scratch due to a shoulder ailment, leaving Homegrown Matt Lampson to step in for his second career start. The former Ohio State Buckeye was only forced to make one save -- a diving stop to deny Darlington Nagbe in the 87th minute -- to earn his first shutout.
"In terms of psyche, when a goalkeeper makes a save like that, it fills the entire team with confidence," Lampson said. "We knew we were going to get out of here with a win."
The 'keeper continued: "I really only had to make one or two saves, and that's credit to Danny [O'Rourke], the Chads [Barson and Marshall] and 'The Body' Josh [Williams]". A lot of guys, this is the first big minutes they've had the entire year and every single one of them stepped up."
Even on short notice, Robert Warzycha has no fear throwing the second-year goalkeeper into the starting lineup.
"Matt had to step in in the last minute and actually he did an excellent job," Warzycha said. "He's a good goalie. I'm not afraid to put him in goal; I think he's an excellent goalkeeper."
In his post-match press conference, Warzycha noted that he didn't think Gruenebaum's injury was serious.