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
Second-year goalkeeper Matt Lampson has been a positive influence for the Crew this season, guiding the Black & Gold to a 7-5-0 record in 12 starts in 2013. But Lampson's biggest impact in his sophomore campaign as a professional has been off the field, working with the Central Ohio chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as the chapter's local spokesperson.
A survivor of Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Lampson has been a strong advocate for raising awareness and funds to help eradicate the deadly disease. On Saturday, Lampson will lead Team LampStrong in LLS' Light the Night Walk at Bicentennial Park. Through special events, Twitter and digital media, Lampson has already raised thousands of dollars toward the event.
"[Light the Night Walk] the biggest event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of the year and we've already raised thousands of dollars," the 24-year-old said.
"I can't thank the Crew fans and the Crew community enough for all the help they've done."
Lampson's passion and work to "make someday today" has taken the notice of the club and his coaches.
"[Lampson’s battle with cancer] speaks to his character and his drive," said Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss. "Nobody wins that battle and comes out a lesser person. He won the battle and he came out a better person. I know he has given back to the community in that area because he is very grateful for what he got."
Light the Night Walk takes place on Saturday, October 12 at Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus. Fans can join Team LampStrong by visiting TheCrew.com/LampStrong.
In a chippy, disjointed match, a header from Sporting Kansas City's Ike Opara made the difference in a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew that may have brought an end to Columbus' Cinderella run at the end of the season.
The Crew entered the match as one of the hottest teams in the league, earning nine points from their last three matches, and winning four of five under interim head coach Brian Bliss in a desperate attempt at a postseason push. Kansas City was more comfortable in the standings, and could clinch a playoff berth on the night with help from other Eastern Conference teams.
Kansas City started strong early, and found the eventual game-winner in the 17th minute when a falling Chad Marshall's half-clearance inside the six-yard box rolled back to Graham Zusi in the aftermath of a corner kick. The US international found an unmarked Ike Opara on the far side of goal, and the defender notched his third goal of the season with a close-range header that left Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson with no chance at the save.
Columbus fullback Augustin Viana, who appeared to be marking Opara on the play, was prone in the box and holding his head after a challenge when Zusi's cross came in, leaving Opara with feet of space on all sides. Referee Jorge Gonzalez, however, determined that there was no danger to Viana, and did not stop play.
Perhaps the most influential story of the first half was the health of Crew captain and Designated Player Federico Higuain. After an early challenge where the Argentinian went to ground, Higuain spent the remainder of the half struggling around the pitch and holding his hip. The usually lively forward was reduced mainly to spot-kick duty, and was obviously hampered in his movements. Surprisingly to most, Higuain stayed in the match for all 90 minutes.
The second half yielded very few chances for either side. Both clubs seemed more interested in disrupting play through the midfield than putting together attacking movements, leading to clumsy stretches and squandered opportunities.
In the middle, the hard-working Zusi was largely responsible for SKC's attack and its defense, shutting down Wil Trapp's ability to spread the ball to the Columbus wings.
Kansas City looked to have added a second goal in the 69th minute, when Opara again got his head on a cross from a corner kick. But the defender climbed the back of Viana, and this time his strike was waved off due to the foul.
Despite multiple offensive substitutions and a late flurry of pressure from the Crew, the hosts could not find the tying goal that they so desperately needed, and the 1-0 score lasted for 73 minutes until the final whistle.
The loss leaves the Crew at 41 points, dropping them to eighth in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the final playoff spot, though Columbus have played an extra match and will be idle next weekend. Kansas City rise to 51 points on the season, two points back of conference leaders New York.
While a victory -- or even a draw -- against Sporting Kansas City would have given the Crew some control in its playoff destiny, Saturday's 1-0 loss leaves the Black & Gold to scoreboard watch over the final three weeks of the season.
C.J. Sapong's 17th-minute tally gave Sporting the early advantage and the eventual winner as the Crew was unable to break one of MLS top defenses for an equalizer. The Black & Gold were able to muster just one shot on target on the evening.
"We fought hard, it's just unfortunate because we defended really well," forward Dominic Oduro said after the match. "We just couldn't find the penetration. We had chances, we should've put them on frame."
The effort was there for the entire 90 minutes for the Black & Gold, but at the end of the evening, the Crew tipped its cap to a class Sporting side.
"I told the guys just now as we wrapped it up, I can't fault anybody for any kind of lack of effort," Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss said in his post-match press conference. "It was just good defense of Kansas City and us having a lack of ability to execute a play in the final third."
Added midfielder Tony Tchani: "I just feel like Kansas City was prepared. They prepared well for tonight based on the last game against FC Dallas. They came prepared. It's not like there was something missing. We gave everything we had.
"It was just a tough game."
Now the Black & Gold will be watching next week's Eastern Conference matchups closely as it prepares for its next match on October 19 at the New England Revolution.
"The results of the other games with other teams, hopefully something can happen," Tchani said. "If something happens, we're going to be more motivated to go to New England and win these two games."
The Crew will take the next two weeks to find the same magic it found last month to earn a 4-1-0 record in September. Perhaps simplicity may be the answer for the Black & Gold.
"We've got to get back to the basics and look at what made us great these last couple weeks and get back to that," Oduro said. "That's the only thing we can do right now.
"Two games left, we've just got to go hard."