Hell will officially become real on Saturday as Columbus Crew SC play host to Major League Soccer newcomers and in-state rival FC Cincinnati. The long-awaited matchup between the sides will be the first of two games this month against the two clubs, the first of which being at MAPFRE Stadium.
In a general sense, it’s been a down season for both clubs in 2019 but more so a tale of two teams in recent weeks. After a late equalizer against San Jose Earthquakes last week, the Crew remain unbeaten in four previous league games while FC Cincinnati have lost each of their previous four. The two sides currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with Cincinnati’s point total being the worst in the league as a whole with only 17 compared to 25 from the Black & Gold. Cincinnati are the only side that fail to average a goal per game through 24 played this season.
While MLS is a league where anything can happen, it’s largely possible that either side comes away with a result. Saturday’s match is sure to bring much excitement as this newly-founded rivalry officially kicks off and takes flight.
Lets take a look at FC Cincinnati and what Columbus can expect from the team from southern Ohio.
FC Cincinnati at a glance
Leading scorer: Allan Cruz (midfielder): 4 goals
Assist leaders: Darren Mattocks (forward), Emmanuel Ledesma (midfielder), Kekuta Manneh (midfielder): 3 assists
FC Cincinnati Projected Starting XI
A season to forget?
FC Cincinnati has suffered from a disaster of an inaugural 2019 MLS Season. Aside from lingering at the bottom of the league in points, the club has failed to find long-term leadership. The club just recently its their third manager of the season in Ron Jans. He’s formerly a head coach of PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands.
With 10 games remaining and the playoffs seemingly out of reach for Cincinnati at this point of the season, Jans steps in to try and fight for whatever the team can down the stretch. He’s looking to improve a side that’s been hampered by injuries and poor results for much of the season.
FC Cincy’s long list of injuries is much like the one Columbus dealt with earlier in the year. As a result, Cincinnati boasts a -32 goal differential and have lost a league-high 17 out of 24 matches played on the season. Three of the team’s five victories have been won by only one goal.
How the Crew win
On paper, some would say that all Columbus has to do to get three points from FC Cincinnati is to simply show up. However, that won’t be the case. The Crew hasn’t fared well against recently added MLS clubs in Atlanta United, Minnesota United and Los Angeles Football Club in the past two seasons, losing each of its inaugural matchups against those sides.
However, the Black & Gold will win if they can keep the thought of what’s at stake in their heads. With two matchups in the same month against the bottom team in the league, head coach Caleb Porter is certainly planning for six points. That would be a huge boost for a team in the midst of a late playoff push after a historic slump the likes of which Crew fans have seen in the history of the club.
Columbus has all of the momentum the team needs coming into Saturday’s matchup. Ultimately, it will come down to the play of both sides on the field for 90 minutes. It will be nothing short of a thriller.