Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer
The weather didn’t cooperate for Ohio State men’s soccer, nor did the team play its best game against the Columbus Crew, but Buckeyes coach John Bluem said the 11th annual Connor Senn Memorial match was still a success.
The Buckeyes met the Crew in the friendly match to honor former OSU player Connor Senn Tuesday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Crew took an early 4-0 lead in a rain-shortened game, but the score was always going to be a secondary matter for both teams in the game.
Tuesday’s contest commemorated Senn, who collapsed during a Sept. 26, 2001, game at Akron and died hours later. Senn’s cause of death was determined to be a congenital heart defect that, at the time, was virtually undetectable.
The game, which was attended by 1,071, helps raise awareness for sudden cardiac arrest in athletes with proceeds benefiting the Connor Senn Memorial Fund and the Dorothy M. Davis Heart & Lung Research Institute at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center.
The Crew was absent from the field during last season’s memorial match because of a Major League Soccer Players’ Union collective bargaining agreement rule that would have forced the club to pay $10,000 to play in the game against the Buckeyes.
With the Crew back in the 2012 edition of the match, Bluem said playing against Columbus’ MLS franchise helped raise the community’s awareness of the game, and the cause for which it stands.
“People want to come out and see the Columbus Crew,” Bluem said. “There’s always that question of, ‘Well how does Ohio State stack up against the Columbus Crew?’ Unfortunately, we didn’t have a very good performance and there are a lot of reasons for that. But we’re not concerned about that.
“We’re concerned about the people here and spreading the message. For us, it was a great evening.”
Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers agreed with Bluem.
“It’s great to have (Crew) players back involved,” McCullers said. “It’s not really the same match without the Crew playing in it, so it’s important to the organization. It’s one of the key parts to our relationship with Ohio State.”
On-field matters were settled quickly as the Crew netted three goals in the opening six minutes of the rain-soaked contest. Midfielder Cole Grossman put Columbus’ pro squad on the board in the second minute, and forward Bernardo Anor followed with an 18-yard, left-footed strike to put OSU in a 2-0 hole.
Crew forward Emilio Renteria, who scored eight goals during Columbus’ 2011 campaign, slammed a header past OSU sophomore goalkeeper Alex Wimmer in the sixth minute to up his side’s advantage to 3-0.
OSU packed its players in on defense from that point on, but Buckeyes junior forward Chris Hegngi managed to create space for himself and had a shot – the only one of the game for OSU – deflected out of bounds.
Had the shot reached goal, Hegngi’s former OSU teammate Matt Lampson would have been there to attempt to block it. Lampson, who played for Bluem from 2008-2011, was signed by the Crew Dec. 14.
Lampson said his former teammates informed him before the game that they planned to fire shots from anywhere on the field as soon as they gained possession.
“I don’t want to say I hope we could have put more (goals) in,” Lampson said, “because I don’t want to say I was pouring it on. I at least wanted to finish out the game. That’s Columbus, Ohio, for you.”
Grossman tallied his second goal of the night in the 27th minute, but the referees ended the action four minutes later as a storm swept over the stadium. Fans were asked to move to the covered concourse under the stadium grandstand and the game was called minutes later.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha, father of former Buckeye and MLS draftee Konrad Warzycha, said he was happy to participate in the game again and bring awareness to the heart condition that took Senn’s life.
“It’s a great game. That’s a game that we have been looking forward to play in,” Warzycha said. “Too many players die on the field, so we try to help out as much as we can.”
Bluem said it was unfortunate the weather got in the way, but the game did justice to the late walk-on defender’s memory.
“It was a beautiful turnout, a lot of people here,” he said. “A lot of excitement. The game ended early and that’s too bad, but I think we’ve generated a lot of good feelings.”
Bluem, McCullers and Crew defender Danny O’Rourke, a childhood friend of Senn’s, will be present for the first-ever Connor Senn Memorial Symposium Tuesday at the Ohio Union, an educational program for community members about sudden cardiac arrest. The Symposium is set to begin at 8 a.m.