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Massive Predictions: Hell is Real

Will Hell freeze over or take over Columbus following this U.S. Open Cup Derby?

Brad A. Hoffman |

We’ve finally reached it. The match you’ve all been waiting for. The Hell is Real Derby, the Ohio Cup, whatever you want to call it.

Columbus Crew SC take on FC Cincinnati in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup tonight.

Here’s what we know. The Black & Gold claim the team wants to take the Open Cup more seriously this year, but isn’t looking at FCC as a rival considering the two teams have never met. Cincinnati loves to brag about the club’s attendance records, but are jealous of Crew SC’s Major League Soccer status.

Other than that, this game is anyone’s guess. But that’s why we have our experts.

Here are our staff predictions for tonight’s U.S. Open Cup showdown in the Queen City.

Patrick Murphy

Before I give my thoughts on this match, I want to clear up the misconception on the attendance numbers for FC Cincinnati. Sure, there have been some rather impressive crowds come to watch USL soccer a Nippert Stadium, but there have also been some where few show up. Last year, Crew SC averaged 17,125 fans per game. FC Cincinnati averaged just 171 more per game.

To compare apples to apples, during Crew SC’s first season, when the Black & Gold played on a college campus in a college football stadium and offered much cheaper tickets — last year was FCC’s first year and average ticket price is much lower than current MLS standards — Crew SC averaged 18,950.

Rant over, my apologies.

As for the game on the field, Crew SC is the better team. Even with a largely reserve squad the last few years, Columbus has won 4-0, 3-1 and 2-1 over USL opposition under head coach Gregg Berhalter. I think this match will be the same.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Berhalter puts out a side mixed with starters and reserve players. He wants to get guys minutes to be ready for Saturday’s game with Atlanta United and let some of his younger players see the field.

I also expect Cincinnati to be motivated playing an MLS side and looking to prove something considering the team wants in to the top American league. I also think the crowd will play a factor and wouldn’t be surprised to see FCC take an early lead. After that, I think it will be all Crew SC.
Columbus Crew SC 3 FC Cincinnati 1

Guilherme Torres

This match is clearly more important to FC Cincinnati, who is trying to be in the spotlights because of its MLS bid, than to Crew SC, who will certainly rest a lot of starters. I don't expect it to be an easy one, but I think Crew SC will take advantage of its better quality and win it, even though FC Cincinnati will play the game of its life and will undoubtedly count on massive support. It will actually be a good test to Crew SC on how to handle with the responsibility of winning.
Columbus Crew SC 3 FC Cincinnati 1

Collin Johnson

Crew SC enter the 2017 U.S. Open Cup after getting a week off from a busy fixture schedule. Though Columbus has had some extra rest, Gregg Berhalter mentioned that the team would likely be without the players who left for international duty, leaving the Black & Gold thin on the backline. Nonetheless, and even with a team composed of second-choice players, I expect Crew SC to dominate possession and move on to the next round of the Open Cup where they will inevitably lose to the Chicago Fire.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Cincinnati 1

Josh Mlot

All signs point to mediocre investment from Gregg Berhalter and the club in the U.S. Open Cup. It seems like they'll continue to use it as a way to blood younger guys and get reserves some time, and if the cards fall right and Columbus wins a couple of games, then you'll start seeing a push to stay alive. That being said, I think a Crew SC lineup with a few starters and a handful of reserves is good enough to compete with and defeat Cincinnati, which, on the field, hasn't been consistently as good as it was in it's inaugural season a year ago. I do expect there to be a good crowd and a good environment, which is far preferable to the nonsense we saw in Colorado last night, where three-quarters of the stadium was empty. While it will be on the road, that type of environment might actually help the Black & Gold — the game will actually feel like something is at stake.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 1

Patrick Guldan

I fully expect a lineup (3-4-2-1, perhaps) filled with reserves and squad players to face FC Cincinnati and so my prediction is with that in mind. In the past, Crew SC has struggled offensively as many of the top players are rested. No Federico Higuain, Justin Meram or Ola Kamara means that Columbus will likely struggle going forward and any offensive fireworks will likely come from the home side. Defensively, Crew SC still has some depth to deal with a USL-caliber attack so I’m expecting a low scoring game that will drag in the summer heat until Crew SC’s subs can make a difference and ease out a win.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 1

Josh Enke

Crew SC are hovering around the red line for making the playoffs. It's only half way through the season, yes, but I have concerns over where this team sits at the end of October. If Columbus does continue with the hit and miss results into summer and early autumn, Open Cup performance might be critical for how fans evaluate Gregg Berhalter. It's not ideal, but it's a trophy, and managers need to semi-regularly hoist big metal cups for fans to stay content. If this season continues to be off and on, a playoff spot remains in question, and Open Cup becomes vital for stabilizing irrational fans (and Berhalter's future in central Ohio).

With all that being said, this match against FC Cincinnati, for me, is an absolute must win. Soccer in Ohio is about Columbus Crew SC. This team cannot be the state's second best. Even if it's a fluke, Cincy fans will never shut up about it, and I won't nearly have enough batteries to quiet them (kidding, I have plenty).

I think this match stays tight in the score line but Columbus dominate possession and create ample chances.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 0

Ralph Schudel

It's finally here. The "Hell is Real" derby is here. Admittedly, I wasn't very excited for this fixture earlier in the week, but as the time has drawn closer the anticipation and excitement has increased.

A few concerns I have with this match:

1.) Columbus is walking into extremely hostile territory. Twenty-five thousand tickets have been sold for this match at Nippert. That being said, Crew SC will arrive with reinforcements as Nor-On-Tour will be in tow. Seven hundred-plus Crew SC supporters have been tallied for this match and there maybe an additional 300 making the trip according to reports.

2.) Cincinnati has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If they win this match, it's a massive (pardon the pun) victory for them. If they lose, well they were supposed to not perform well against the MLS side.

3.) What lineup will we see from Crew SC? I believe we will see a healthy mix of starters and reserve players. It would be silly for Gregg Berhalter not to give players like Ethan Finlay or Jutin Meram some time tonight as they run the risk of going two weeks without competitive in game action.

Taking all of that into account this Cincinnati team isn't as stellar as they were last year and may hit a pretty big roadblock in their first encounter with Columbus.

Enjoy tonight fans, because this truly could be something special.
Columbus Crew SC 4 FC Cincinnati 2

Nathaniel Marhefka

Welcome to hell, boys. The time has come where Crew SC has to endure the heathens at Futbol Club Cincinnati -- no that wasn't a typo, that is their actual official name. As for the Syracuse Orange, I have yet to see them play. They play in the USL or NASL, I'm not really sure, but I live in Florida. I expect a rowdy crowd and some questionable soccer on the turf. It will be kind of neat to see such a huge turnout for this game, and I hope it continues. But we'll see how they handle the big boys coming to town. Berhalter, I expect, is going to go full offensive and play two or three younger guys while retaining the heart of the starting XI. I think he wants to make a statement. Maybe we see three in the back but expect a lot of attacking impetus in this one.
Columbus Crew SC 4 FC Cincinnati 2

Well there you have it. Do you think Crew SC get out of Cincinnati alive and advances in the Open Cup? Let us know your thoughts on the match in the comment section below.