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
COLUMBUS – Federico Higuain had a penalty and an assist and Jairo Arrieta made a triumphant return to the first XI as the Crew did all their scoring in the first half for a 3-0 victory over D.C. United on Saturday night in a match delayed 50 minutes at the start after a fire in the video board at Crew Stadium.
The teams were warming up when the blaze broke out on the top of the video board above the south stands about 25 minutes before the scheduled kickoff.
Fans were cleared from the area and the players were forced to stop warming up. No one was injured and spectators in the sections below the board, including D.C.'s traveling supporters La Barra Brava, were moved elsewhere for the match.
There was no sound system for the match and the Nordecke supporters section led the crowd of 14,090 in singing the Star Spangled Banner.
Once the game began the Crew (3-2-3) sent D.C. to their fifth straight loss and extend a winless streak to 0-5-1.
Arrieta was back in the starting lineup for the first time in five matches and the Costa Rican forward had a part in all three goals by setting up Dominic Oduro on the first; drawing a corner kick that led to Williams' score and earning a penalty that Higuain converted.
After returning from national team duty, Arrieta lost his first XI berth but quickly paid dividends vs. D.C. by setting up Oduro's fourth goal in the 15th minute.
He took a cross from by Eddie Gaven on the left side of the box and dribbled toward the endline before cutting a pass to the middle where Oduro buried a shot to give the Crew only their second goal in the first half this season.
D.C. shortly thereafter thought it had tied the match but, as they did in losing 2-1 to the Crew at home on March 23, they had a goal disallowed much to their chagrin.
In the first meeting, Kyle Porter was ruled offside before scoring while this time Perry Kitchen was called for a foul as he headed the ball into the goal. Saturday's decision in the 23rd minute became even more pivotal when Williams scored for the second time this season vs. D.C. just moments later.
After failing to earn a corner kick in losing 1-0 at Chicago the previous match, the Crew struck on their first try in the 26th minute as Federico Higuain found Williams 10 yards in front of the goal. The defender's sidewinder was his third goal of the season.
The Crew made it 3-0 in second minute of first-half stoppage time when Gaven heeled the ball to Arrieta, who was taken down from behind by Brandon McDonald.
Higuain converted the PK after a stutter-step for his second goal, adding to D.C. 's 0-5-1 run in Columbus since 2007.
The Crew will play their sixth straight Eastern Conference foe when they host New York on May 4. D.C. United hopes to be healthier for their next match May 8 against Houston at RFK Stadium.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
COLUMBUS – Crew president Mark McCullers said his organization, like all in MLS, have plans for stadium emergencies to keep fans, players and staff safe.
But he was met with a new challenge Saturday when 25 minutes before the scheduled kick-off, speaker cabinets in the top part of the videoboard erupted in flames above the south stands.
The Columbus Fire Department brought in several ladder trucks and extinguished the fire while the sections containing fans were cleared.
There were no injuries reported and the match started 50 minutes late as the Crew defeated D.C. United 3-0.
"I've got to tell you, I don't think there's a page in our book that talks about scoreboard fires, but fires in general are part of our safety plan," McCullers said at a postgame press conference."Our staff did a fantastic job of quickly getting with the police and fire department to get the area secured so that our fans were not in any harm in terms of their safety."
He said postponing the match was not discussed after the fire was contained.
"Once they got the fire under control they quickly gave us the green light to move forward with the game," McCullers said. "That told me their assessment was pretty clear that we're safe to move on."
Fire marshals will inspect the videoboard Monday and McCullers said he will have a better idea then of the damage.
The Crew play at home on May 4 and McCullers said contingency plans will be made if the 15-year-old videoboard is inoperable.
"We should have some form of audio and video for the game, either our current scoreboard or some other situation," he said.
There was no sound system or replays for the match and the Nordecke supporters section unprompted led the crowd of 14,090 in singing the Star-Spangled Banner before the game.
"It gave me goosebumps," Crew midfielder Dominic Oduro said.
CREW PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER MARK MCCULLERS
On the scoreboard fire:
We don’t have any details on what caused it. The fire marshal is going to be in on Monday and he didn’t want to get up in there (the scoreboard) tonight. That process is going to take place on Monday, so obviously we could speculate, but I’d rather not. We don’t really have an estimate on damage. The top of the scoreboard is the speaker cabinet, which I think is already fairly well known, and I think that the fire was pretty well contained in that area. Obviously with as much water as was put on the scoreboard, it could be just about any level of damage, from replacing the speakers to replacing the entire scoreboard. We also have our partners from Daktronics in on Monday, so they’ll really assess the damage as quickly as possible. We’re already working on contingency plans and temporary audio/video for our next game. I think by next Saturday we should have some form of audio/video for the game; if it’s our current scoreboard or some other system.
On the reaction of staff and security:
We have plans in place all the time. I’ve got to say that our staff did a fantastic job of quickly getting with the police and the fire department, getting the area secured, and making sure that our fans were not in any sort of jeopardy in terms of their safety. I’ve got to tell you that I don’t think there’s a page in our book that talks about scoreboard fires, but certainly fires in general are a part of our safety plan. I’m really proud of our staff and the way they responded; they were calm, they were professional, and they were expert in what they did.