Match Preview

PREVIEW | FC Cincinnati head north for Hell is Real derby return match with Columbus Crew

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After having over two weeks off due to the Leagues Cup break, FC Cincinnati return to the pitch for MLS play. The Orange and Blue will travel up I-71 for the return match with FCC’s regional rival, the Columbus Crew, and will play the 12th iteration of the Hell is Real derby in MLS.

For the first time in club history FC Cincinnati have the opportunity to sweep the season series against the Crew, having defeated them in the first matchup between the two Ohio clubs in May 3-2 at TQL Stadium.

The Columbus Crew is FCC’s most played opponent all-time, with 12 matches in MLS and one while the Orange and Blue were in USL. FC Cincinnati have not played another club in MLS regular season play more than 10 times.

With an eight-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings, FC Cincinnati can secure an important three points with a victory, which would be their first at Columbus’ home grounds in club history.

Prior to the Leagues Cup break, FC Cincinnati were riding a four-match points streak (2-0-2) with wins at Nashville and New York Red Bulls. This season The Orange and Blue own a 4-2-5 record when playing away from TQL Stadium.



Watch: FS1, FOX Deportes, Apple TV (Free)
TV Talent (FS1/English): Nate Bukaty (PxP), Tony Meola (Analyst)
TV Talent (Apple/English): Keith Costigan (PxP), Maurice Edu (Analyst)
TV Talent (FOX Deportes/Spanish): Rodolfo Landeros (PxP), Alvaro Izquierdo (Analyst), Martin Zuniga (Analyst)
TV Talent (Apple/Spanish): Pablo Ramirez (PxP), Carlos Ruiz (Analyst)
Radio: iHeart Media ESPN 1530, SiriusXM FC 157
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (PxP), Jeff Larentowicz (analyst)

Be sure to follow @FCCincinnati on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the game.

Saturday’s match will mark the 13th all-time meeting between the two Ohio rivals, the 12th since Cincinnati joined the league in 2019. FC Cincinnati won the home Hell is Real fixture in a thrilling 3-2 victory on May 20 at TQL Stadium, improving FCC’s record to 2-5-4 in MLS league play against their northern foes, and 2-1-3 at home.

Last season, the Crew won the matchup in Columbus, 2-0. The Orange and Blue have never beaten the Columbus Crew at their home grounds in four prior tries.

Chances to change the story –
FC Cincinnati’s next three road matches including Sunday (Columbus, Aug. 20; Atlanta, Aug. 30; and Philadelphia, Sept. 16) come against three clubs which FCC have played four-plus road matches against and have never earned a road victory against.

Sunday will mark Cincinnati’s fifth trip to Columbus, where the Orange and Blue have also traveled to Atlanta and Philadelphia five times without a win.

Finishing Power – Striker Brandon Vazquez has been scoring in bunches of late, leading FC Cincinnati in goal scoring during Leagues Cup with five goals in three matches for the Orange and Blue. In his last nine matches, spanning time with FCC and the U.S. Men's National Team, Vazquez has potted eight goals.

Comeback Kids – FC Cincinnati have trailed at some point in six of the last seven matches they have played, and have come from behind in each. FCC have earned a result in all six of those games (2-0-4), which includes the draws which were settled by PK shootouts against Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC in Leagues Cup play.

Roman Saves Back – FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano is second in in MLS in clean sheets this season with nine. He has also started all 23 MLS matches for The Orange and Blue this season.

With 63 saves on the season, Celentano is 10th in MLS in total saves.

Sweep Potential – With a win in the first round of Hell is Real this season, FC Cincinnati have the chance to sweep the season series against Columbus for the first time in club history.

FCC have only swept four opponents in club history, doing so against CF Montréal (2019), Toronto FC (2022), Orlando City SC (2022), and Nashville SC (2023).

The Columbus Crew return to MLS play a very different club than when they entered the break for Leagues Cup.

Over the month-long break between regular season matches, The Crew sold star attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayán to Saudi Pro League side Al-Fateh. Zelarayán made 97 appearances for The Crew and scored 38 goals, he has also scored the second-most goals in Hell is Real derby games with five.

In his place the Crew made a splash, signing Uruguay native Diego Rossi from Turkish club Fenerbahçe S.K. Rossi, a midfielder, was a star in MLS with LAFC from 2018 to 2021, where he played 104 matches with Los Angeles, which included winning the 2019 Supporters’ Shield before going to Turkey.

The Crew technically went undefeated in Leagues Cup, winning both of its group stage matches against St. Louis City SC and Club América but fell to Minnesota United FC in penalty kicks in the Round of 32.

In league play, Columbus’ form has not been their best, going winless in their last three matches and only winning twice in their last six fixtures. But with 36 points in 23 games this season, the Crew sit squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as the second half of the season begins.

The Columbus Crew will be without head coach Wilfried Nancy, who is serving a suspension for “irresponsible behavior” in a July 8 match against NYCFC. It is not yet announced who will handle managerial responsibilities in his absence.

Nancy was hired by Columbus in December of 2022 after two years with CF Montréal as head coach. He spent over 10 years in Montréal at various levels before taking over the head coaching job. In his first year in Columbus, Nancy owns a 14-7-8 record across all competitions.

In net, Patrick Schulte leads the Crew with 20 starts across all competitions and four clean sheets. Schulte was a MLS SuperDraft pick in the same class as FC Cincinnati keeper Roman Celentano, and was also a Generation adidas player. Schulte is ninth in MLS with 64 saves this season.