After the Columbus Crew match this past Sunday against Orlando City SC was postponed, the attention once again shifts to just down Interstate-71, as the Crew gets set to take on rivals FC Cincinnati. Yes, you read that correctly, there will have a fourth iteration of the Hell is Real Derby in 2020 this Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. As the Black & Gold look to once again to establish dominance over their in-state rivals, let’s take a look at what to expect on Wednesday night.
FC Cincinnati at a Glance:
Record: 3-4-10, 13 points
League Form: L-L-L-L-D
Leading Scorer: Yuya Kubo, Jurgen Locadia (2)
Assist Leader: Adrien Regattin (2)
Player to Watch: Joseph-Claude Gyau
Despite low production thus far in 2020, Gyau has at times been the most dangerous player for FC Cincy, especially against the Crew. Gyau was at one time a highly touted U.S. Youth National Team prospect that and had stints in Germany with St. Pauli, Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund during his career. Despite never really breaking through at that level, Gyau no doubt was able to learn and improve as a player in those environments.
One of the key facets of Gyua’s game is his speed and dribbling ability in 1 v. 1 situations. Crew fans saw the talents that Gyau brings to the table, especially in recent Hell is Real Derbies as the attacking player has often posed the only threat to the Columbus goal. His speed and ability in transition will likely be highlighted again on Wednesday as FC Cincy looks to counter attack the Black & Gold and create one-on-one matchups for Gyau on the wing. If the Crew does not do a good job containing this, then Gyau could have a significant impact on the outcome of this match.
How FC Cincinnati play:
It is safe to say that FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam has a pretty defined playing style established in 2020. Stam’s group is perhaps the most boring team to watch in the MLS and has no intention of changing that up. Crew fans have become well aware of the strategy commonly known as “parking the bus” that Cincinnati has used against the Black & Gold and just about everyone else in the MLS in 2020.
FC Cincinnati typically looks to defend very deep toward its own goal with all 11 players behind the ball to limit the opposition’s space near goal. The thought process for doing so is that by eliminating space for your opponents to play in, the team will limit the opposition’s ability to create dangerous attacking chances.
In addition to this, by sitting in a low defensive block, FC Cincy often encourages teams like Columbus to commit more numbers to the attack. If FC Cincy is then able to win the ball, there is often space for the team to counter attack into and create attacking chances. It should be noted that FC Cincy is not particularly good at this strategy, as in the last five matches thee team have not scored and have given up 10 goals.
Given that this is a rivalry and that FC Cincinnati has literally nothing to lose, there is a possibility that Cincinnati could opt to try a different, more aggressive strategy to try and disrupt the Crew’s game plan. However, this is highly unlikely, as FC Cincinnati has hardly entered its attacking half since the Crew dismantled the group 4-0 in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
How the Crew can win:
Given the Crew’s recent struggles, this match could not have come at a better time as it is a perfect opportunity to get back in the win column and thus get back on track towards the end of the 2020 campaign. That being said, there are still some things that the Black & Gold must focus on to take three points and once again establish control of Ohio.
Firstly, the Crew must be very sharp in possession, especially in the attacking third. When playing teams like Cincinnati, it is natural for the ball to move slower and for touches to be sloppy, as there is typically not much pressure on the team in possession and there is little space to play in. However, if the Crew is going to be able to break down Cincinnati’s defense, Columbus will need to move the ball quickly and accurately.
By doing this the Crew will cause FC Cincy’s defense to move and react to the ball quickly, thus creating space and opportunities to attack. Black & Gold fans have seen both sides of this, as the second Hell is Real Derby ended in a lackluster 0-0 result earlier this year that saw the Crew move the ball slowly in the attacking third and allowed Cincinnati to cover its defensive spaces and keep their defensive shape compact. Conversely, the Black & Gold did a much better job moving the ball in their most recent matchup with FC Cincy, putting three balls in the back of the net and taking home all the points. If the Crew is going to again win this game, then moving the ball quickly and sharply in the attacking third is a must.
As discussed previously, FC Cincinnati is really only looking to score in a couple of ways. The team’s main form of attack is counter attacking the opposition as soon as Cincinnati wins the ball. Thus, defensive transition will be a huge key for the Black & Gold on Wednesday. The good news is that typically the Crew is very good in this facet of the game and has been able to use it to the team’s advantage in many games in the 2020 season.
The Black & Gold will have to place a premium on not only recovering behind the ball quickly to limit FC Cincy opportunities but also on applying pressure to the ball quickly after losing possession. Counter pressing, as this is commonly known, will not only allow Columbus the ability to dominate possession but also help limit FC Cincy’s opportunities to attack in transition which would effectively shut down the attack.
Lastly, the Black & Gold will have to finish their chances on Wednesday. As seen previously, the longer FC Cincy can keep a game at 0-0, the better Stam’s team feels about its chances to win. But when teams are able to take the lead against Cincinnati, more goals often follow.
Not only does conceding often break FC Cincy’s spirit, but it also forces the team to try and score a goal, which means Cincinnati has to put the bus in drive and often opens up spaces for the opposing team to attack. A good example of this is the last time these two teams met. Once the Crew took the lead through Pedro Santos, more goals quickly followed and the Columbus was able to wrap up three points. The Crew attackers must be prepared to convert the chances they are presented with in this one to take three points and another derby win.