(Left) Lantern file photo (Right) Abby Sweet / Lantern photogrpher
For players participating in Tuesday’s Connor Senn Memorial soccer game between the Ohio State men’s soccer team and the Columbus Crew, the event is more than an exhibition match. The charity event, which honors former OSU soccer player Connor Senn who collapsed on the field of play and died hours later, transcends sport, said Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha.
On Sept. 26, 2001, Senn, a then-18-year-old freshman, collapsed on the field during a game at Akron. The cause of death was determined to be a congenital heart defect that, at the time, went undetected.
“I would call (Senn) more of a family member,” Warzycha said. “He was a soccer player, we all play soccer. It’s very important for us to be at this game. This is something that we all remember and it raises awareness of what happened on the field and raises money for the cause.”
The charity match was established in 2002 and will be back Tuesday for the 11th time. The event raises 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, according to ohiostatebuckeyes.com.
For the first nine years of the game, OSU took on the Crew. Last year, though, the Crew elected not to play in the charity match.
Crew technical director Brian Bliss told The Lantern in May 2011 that playing in the Connor Senn Memorial Match would cost the club $10,000 because of the Major League Soccer Players Union’s most recently ratified collective-bargaining agreement, which stipulates that MLS clubs can schedule only one non-league “free game” per season.
The Crew had already scheduled an international friendly against Premier League’s Newcastle United to be played on July 26, so OSU instead hosted the Dayton Dutch Lions of the United Soccer Leagues. The Buckeyes lost to the Dutch Lions, 3-1, May 2.
This year, the Crew returns to take on the Buckeyes and OSU coach John Bluem said having them back is an important factor for both teams.
“It’s neat. It’s the pro team in town playing against Ohio State University men’s Division I team,” Bluem said. “The Crew really add that little bit of extra juice to it.”
Bluem said he’s looking for his team to go out and show that they can keep up with the pros. He also said he would like to have the opportunity to play everyone on the team, but the bench might see limited action in this contest.
“We want to show that we’re a good team. We’re going to put out there who we think is the best group and play them for as much of the game as possible,” Bluem said. “Hopefully we can go about 70 to 75 minutes and it’s a good game and it’s close.”
Former OSU and current Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson previously played in the game as a Buckeye from 2008-2011 and said he’s not going to take the game lightly.
“I’m excited about it and I’m going to be honest, I want to make it not close … You would think that I would have some sort of compassion for my alma mater, but unfortunately,” Lampson said, pausing while a grin spread across his face, “it’s not there. This is my job now and I gotta go out and do it.”
Lampson said when he wore scarlet and gray, OSU often went into the match hoping to make it close but quickly realized they would be outplayed by the pros. He said he’s expecting this year’s match to play out in similar fashion.
“When I played with OSU, they would say things like, ‘All right we’re going to go out and play against these guys,'” Lampson said. “And we would try for about five minutes and then we were like, ‘Well, they’re way better. Lets hang back a little bit.’ That’s what I’m expecting, for them to hang back and not attack so much.”
Warzycha said he plans on starting players that don’t normally crack the Crew’s starting lineup, but added that everyone on the Crew could have a chance to play.
“We’ll see how the game goes and everybody is going to be on the bench, so if we need to use somebody, then they’ll go in and play,” Warzycha said.
Regardless of the outcome, Bluem said he is proud of what the game has become, grateful the Crew have agreed to be a part of it and said there is a lesson that can be learned from all of it.
“Life is precious. Sudden cardiac death is a scary thing that can happen in athletics and in general walks of life. The Columbus Crew have been unbelievable as a partner for the last 11 years,” he said. “Our goal now is through research and education, which we can now fund, to prevent sudden cardiac death.”
Tuesday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children and students and can be purchased online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com or by calling 1-800-GO-BUCKS.
Pat Brennan contributed to this article.