It is here.
The first ever Major League Soccer Hell Is Real Derby takes place on Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium. After a U.S. Open Cup meeting two years ago and a preseason clash in the Carolina Challenge Cup this season, Columbus Crew SC and FC Cincinnati finally meet in MLS play.
While the rivalry has little history, the animosity between the teams (at least in the stands) is real and will be felt on Saturday night.
On the field, both teams are in need of points. The Crew’s run of form has flipped in recent weeks, with two wins and two draws the last four matches. Cincinnati is losers of four straight games and sits dangerously close to playoff elimination in the expansion side’s first season.
Who takes the points in the first MLS Hell Is Real? Let’s see what our staff thinks will happen in the match.
Ah yes, it is Ohio Derby week, with Columbus and Cincinnati finally locking horns in an MLS match. FC Cincy has been woefully terrible this season, while Columbus has had its fair share of ups and a lot of downs. It is too bad this first meeting will not have any playoff implications. It would have been ideal to have the two above or near the playoff line, adding an extra sizzle to the match.
Cincinnati struggles to score, but they are delightful at conceding goals. The Crew has been inconsistent in finding the back of the net, though recent games may be showing a change of fortunes. With a big crowd on hand and riding the momentum of a four-game unbeaten streak, including two big results on the road, the Black & Gold should be riding high and beat on their Ohio little brother. Though, be mindful, this two-game season series with Columbus is all Cincy has to play for at this point. The visitors should come out with a chip on the shoulder and a “nothing to lose” attitude.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 0
The moment every Crew fan has been waiting for. If Saturday’s game against FC Cincinnati wasn’t marked on the calendar of fans before, it certainly is now. Hell Is Real and the experience is about to get underway. With that said, it’s going to come down to a gritty 90 minutes on the field between both teams.
For a great portion of the season, both Ohio teams have been at the bottom of the standings. More recently, it’s been a tale of two completely different sides. Columbus is riding a four-game unbeaten streak, whereas Cincinnati has lost its previous four games. FC Cincy also just introduced its third different head coach in the team’s inaugural season.
Life in the MLS certainly hasn’t been easy for the league’s newest team. It certainly won’t get any easier on the road in what’s sure to be a hostile environment at MAPFRE Stadium. Cincinnati is the only side in the league that fail to average a goal per game. Long story short, Columbus will extend its unbeaten streak with a victory and get a step closer to their playoff dreams.
Columbus Crew SC 3 FC Cincinnati 1
To me, this first Hell Is Real matchup is simple. The Crew is the better team and is playing better soccer right now, but the better team doesn’t always win. I expect the Black & Gold to control the game, getting back to its dominant, possession style of play against an over matched Cincinnati side. The visitors will look to hit Columbus on the counter and try and capitalized on any set piece opportunities.
Like the first game, the opening goal of this contest will be important. If the Crew can score early, this game is likely over and could get ugly for Cincinnati. If FC Cincy can find the initial goal, or even keep this contest scoreless heading into the second half, the pressure mounts on the Black & Gold at MAPFRE Stadium and that’s not what this team needs right now.
I think the Crew play composed and get the job done, stretching the unbeaten streak to five games and sending the Columbus faithful home with bragging rights.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 0
In the first Hell Is Real game this year, which took place in the preseason, Columbus Crew SC beat FC Cincinnati 3-0 in this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup. The Black & Gold should deliver its most impressive offensive showcase against its new in-state rival in front of a rocking home crowd this Saturday night. Cincinnati will bring its putrid defense to Columbus that’s conceded an eye-popping 55 goals along with a -32 goal differential to play a Crew squad that has scored eight goals during the past four games. Motivated by the new rivalry and necessity for three points, the Black & Gold will earn a big win in MAPFRE Stadium.
Columbus Crew SC 4 FC Cincinnati 1
Columbus Crew SC and FC Cincinnati’s first MLS meeting was hyped as one of the highlights of the regular season when the schedule was announced but not many people expected it would happen with both teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The rivalry feeling will still be around, but the fact that the match doesn’t really mean much takes something off Saturday’s game.
Playing at home, the Crew should have no problem justifying the eight-point advantage it has over their Ohio rivals in the standings and with the team showing the first signs of promise in months over the last weeks, I expect the Black & Gold to take full advantage of Cincinnati’s bad form and worst defense in the league by a mile to secure a convincing win.
Columbus Crew 3 FC Cincinnati 1
Both teams are in very different form coming into this Hell Is Real game. Columbus seems to have finally found some momentum over the past four matches. Cincinnati. on the other hand, is on a four-match losing skid. Regardless of form, both teams will be fired up for the first derby in MLS history. I expect the crew to rise up to the occasion despite injury issues at left back and find a way to get a victory at home over a very poor FC Cincinnati team.
Columbus Crew 2 FC Cincinnati 0
The Crew is playing its best soccer of the season while FC Cincinnati is still trying to figure this whole MLS thing out. Despite FC Cincy’s struggles, the team is sure to bring its best to MAPFRE Stadium for what should be a loud, crowded match between the relatively new rivals. This is the first game in a few weeks where Columbus should spend most of their time possessing and attacking. It will be interesting to see how Caleb Porter adjusts the new-found counter-attacking style to fit a game that his team is favored to win.
Hector Jimenez’s injury could be a big blow to the Black & Gold, but this is probably the best week to be slightly think at left back. If Waylon Francis and Aboubacar Keita aren’t able to play then Pedro Santos could slot in and let the Crew go young up front. Columbus’ slim playoff hopes rely on grabbing six points from FC Cincy this month, and the fans in MAPFRE won’t settle for anything less than a win.
Columbus Crew SC 3 FC Cincinnati 0
Finally, the game Ohio soccer fans have been waiting for, but not the scenario they were hoping. With the Crew starting the season at the top of the table and FC Cincinnati getting a dominant win during its home opener against the Portland Timbers, both groups of fans could be forgiven for expecting the August matchups to be battles for playoff positioning. Instead both teams are fighting to not be the last team in the Eastern Conference. And for the newbies of MLS, they appear to be in a losing battle.
Columbus is getting in a rhythm no one expected two months ago, while FC Cincy has high hopes to do the same with the hiring of Ron Jans earlier this week. Even if Jans can get the most out his team, he is still working with a group that has already given up a MLS-leading 55 goals this season. The Black & Gold with their new scoring prowess should record their fourth multi-goal game in five matches. And while this would be the perfect match for Eloy Room to record his first clean sheet with the Crew, the persisting injuries on the backline will make that difficult. In the end, Columbus will be another team reminding Cincinnati that they are not in the USL anymore.
Columbus Crew SC 2 FC Cincinnati 1
Will this game have the magic of the first game in 2017? Probably not. Regardless it should still be incredibly fun. Take some time and enjoy this match because this rivalry has the potential to be all sorts of special.
That being said, there is too much uncertainty in FC Cincinnati camp and Columbus seem to be hitting its stride. I’m thinking a big win for the home team.
Columbus Crew SC 3 FC Cincinnati 0
How do you think the first MLS Hell Is Real Derby will play out? Let us know your predictions in the comment section below.