Match Preview

PREVIEW | FC Cincinnati host the Columbus Crew for Hell is Real

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FC Cincinnati quickly turn the page on a midweek win against CF Montréal as the Orange and Blue get set to host in-state rival, the Columbus Crew, in the 11th MLS edition of Hell is Real at TQL Stadium this Saturday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday’s match has been announced as a sellout. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats early to enjoy the stadium atmosphere as the Orange and Blue look to improve on the club’s league-best, unblemished 7-0-0 home record in 2023. Fans are also encouraged to wear orange.

The Orange and Blue will look to extend their perfect start to the season at home. Following Wednesday’s win at TQL Stadium, FC Cincinnati became the fourth club in MLS history in the post-shootout era to win their first seven home games in a season.

Saturday’s game will stream exclusively on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app. With the match being at home, fans watching on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV will have the option to switch to the local ESPN 1530 home radio broadcast as their audio source.


Stream: MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app
TV Talent (English): Keith Costigan (play-by-play), Maurice Edu (analyst)
TV Talent (Spanish): Sergio Ruiz (play-by-play), Carlos Ruiz (analyst)
Radio: ESPN 1530
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (play-by-play), Kevin McCloskey (analyst)

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

Saturday night’s game will stream live on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app. No blackouts, no restrictions. Fans can also listen to the match locally on ESPN 1530.

To switch to the home radio audio on the broadcast:

  1. Click on the live FC Cincinnati match in MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app.
  2. Click on the radio button located in the bottom right-hand corner.
  3. Choose “Home Team’s Local Radio: English” to listen to FCC’s local broadcast during the match.

For more information on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, visit Each full-season ticket account will include one subscription to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (one per account). Season Ticket Members should check their email for information. FAQ for Season Ticket Members

Don’t forget to swing by Washington Park beginning at 4:30 p.m. for a number of free activities leading up to kickoff, including live music by Jet Pack Academy, axe throwing, a Wings and Rings spicy chicken wing eating contest, food and drink specials and more. At 6:30 p.m., fans can join the high-energy march into the stadium with smoke, drums and chants.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early and get in their seats for plenty of special pre-match presentations throughout the stadium.

For a full list of gameday activations and TQL Stadium information, including special fiery food items and drinks, visit the matchday guide, HERE.

Beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, fans in Ohio can purchase 50/50 Raffle Tickets to support the FC Cincinnati Foundation. All tickets can be purchased online at or on the official FC Cincinnati app.

Saturday’s match will mark the 12th all-time meeting between the two Ohio rivals, the 11th since Cincinnati joined the league in 2019. Cincinnati are 1-5-4 in MLS league play against their northern foes, and 1-1-3 at home.

Last season, the Crew won the matchup in Columbus, 2-0, and scored a stoppage-time equalizer in the matchup at TQL Stadium to secure a late 2-2 tie.

The Crew are looking to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season. Columbus had been winless in four-straight until a 2-0 home win this past Wednesday over LA Galaxy. Entering this weekend, the Crew are only nine points off the top spot and are tied on 18 points with Charlotte FC and Philadelphia Union.

Columbus are a dangerous attacking side, scoring 23 goals in 12 league matches this season. That tally ranks second-most in MLS and trails only Atlanta United FC, who have netted 25 goals. On the road, however, the Crew have struggled offensively, managing just five goals in five matches.

Lucas Zelarayán remains the playmaker for Columbus in the midfield, as the Armenian International midfielder is on pace to set surpass impressive numbers from last season. In 2022, Zelarayán finished the year with 10 goals and 12 assists in 29 league appearances. This season, Zelarayán has already found the back of the net five times, a team-high, and added three assists.

Alongside Zelarayán in midfield is 21-year-old Aidan Morris, who has enjoyed the best start to a season in his young career. Morris has been on the scoresheet three times for the Crew this year, scoring his first MLS goal against Atlanta United in a 6-1 win earlier this year. Morris has started all 12 matches for the Crew and leads the team in minutes (1,049).

Club-record signing Cucho Hernández returned from an early-season injury on April 26, playing 45 minutes in a U.S. Open Cup match against Indy Eleven. He has started in Columbus’ last three, scoring one goal, and picking up three assists.

Wilfried Nancy took over coaching duties after the Crew parted ways with Caleb Porter just one day after the end of the 2022 regular season. Nancy joins the Crew for his first season in Columbus after spending two years with CF Montréal, leading the club to a second-place finish in the east and a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2022.

THE FORTRESS The Orange and Blue enter Saturday with an unblemished 7-0-0 home record, having earned 21 points through seven MLS matches at TQL Stadium this season. Cincinnati are the fourth team in MLS history in the post-shootout era to win their first seven home games in a season, the first since the 2020 Philadelphia Union.

50 GAMES IN TQL Speaking of TQL Stadium, Saturday will mark the 50th soccer game to be played inside the third-year home of FC Cincinnati.

The stadium has seen 41 MLS regular season games, four other FC Cincinnati matches across all competitions, three matches featuring United States National Teams, and one FC Cincinnati 2 match.

BUSY STRETCH AHEAD Saturday continues a congested stretch for FC Cincinnati. The weekend fixture will mark FCC’s second of six games in an 18-day span. And if FC Cincinnati advance past the Red Bulls in next week’s U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 matchup, the Orange and Blue will end up playing eight games in a 25-day span between May 17 and June 10.

ON SHORT REST Saturday marks FC Cincinnati’s first MLS matchday following a midweek league match. Earlier this season, FCC tied the New England Revolution just three days after knocking Louisville City FC out of the the U.S. Open Cup.

Under Pat Noonan, in games played three days after another game, the Orange and Blue are 5-0-0.

HAVING THE FIRST SAY Opponents have scored on FC Cincinnati first just once this season (April 15 at St. Louis CITY SC). Every other team in MLS have conceded first in an MLS game at least twice this year.

EARLY HELL Saturday will mark the earliest date in the year – by far – Cincinnati and Columbus have met. Previously in MLS competition, the earliest fixture came on July 9, 2021.

The early-July matchup in 2021, however, was just FCC’s 11th MLS match that season. The 2021 season did not kick off until mid-April.

Head Coach Pat Noonan on facing the Columbus Crew
"Well, it'll be difficult to have a dominant performance just based on, like I said, the quality of our opponent. I think [Wednesday] night's performance is probably as strong as we've been all-around. One of the things we talked about was how we wanted to attack and the hunger at which we wanted to go to goal and create chances and score some goals. Because we've obviously been waiting for a game like last night, and there were still goals out there. So I was just really pleased with how we created and, you know, if we want to have a similar result and performance, we have to, again, get really good recovery so that we're fresh so that guys are stepping on the field and just thinking about playing the game and I'm confident we'll get there.

“But I'm not approaching this game and our group isn't to think about dominating, it's, 'let's have a strong performance and understand and respect what our opponent is capable of.' But also having the confidence when we step on the field, which these guys have done, to have a strong showing in front of our home fans and hopefully get a result against obviously a rival and a good team.”