PREVIEW| FC Cincinnati travel to Columbus for first Hell is Real match of 2024 


The storied history of the Hell is Real derby will add another page to its textbooks Saturday night when FC Cincinnati, winners of their last three and second place in the Eastern Conference table, make the two hour drive from the Queen City to Field to take on the Columbus Crew for the seventh time since joining MLS.

The history of the two clubs is in the past, and there’s nothing to be done to change that. So the approach to the weekend rivalry match has been putting away distractions like that, and focusing on the task at hand so as to make sure the performance FC Cincinnati put on on Saturday night is up to their standards, and one they can be proud of.

“What I care about is can this group go and perform well, and hopefully get a result to go with it,” FC Cincinnati Head Coach Pat Noonan said Thursday, “But if we're so focused on all the results that didn't go our way in the past, then we're already in the wrong frame of mind of how we approach this game. So that won't be something that we discuss.”

FC Cincinnati has never won at Columbus, at best registering draws to come away happy with a point (we tied once at the old stadium). But it is worth noting that the club has, since Pat Noonan took over as Head Coach, never had its full assortment of options available to them when making the trip to Columbus. Last season, in a 3-0 loss, starters Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera and Santiago Arias were all unavailable.

Noonan highlighted Thursday that 2023 MLS MVP Luciano Acosta and defender DeAndre Yedlin were both day-to-day headed into the weekend after coming out early the week before with knocks. But expressed optimism that both would be available for the match. Yamil Asad, who picked up a knock will be unavailable for the match, but otherwise, a full complement of FCC players would be available for the match.

“These games are different, not just for us individually, but for the club and for the fans. And that makes it more exciting,” midfielder Obinna Nwobodo said of the rivalry match. “This is a special game. For everyone in the club…but we try to focus more on ourselves so we don’t get into our heads.

“If we only focus on the rivalry, that is not going to work for us. We need to be in the moment and still execute knowing fully well that this game is important. (So) we need to focus on our game.”

While struggles historically have come at Columbus, FC Cincinnati have been strong when playing away from home this year. With a 4-1-1 record, no other club has earned more points from road matches this season. On the flip side though, Columbus has been (literally) unbeatable at home dating back to 2023. The Crew are currently on a 27-match unbeaten streak at home (18-0-9) and are 24-1-13 dating back to August of 2022.

“We'll continue to discuss their current group, some of the challenges that we'll face, who we're going to have on the field, and how we think we can go and put out a strong performance,” Noonan said. “I think they're, you know, a well-balanced team in that regard, both with and without the ball…they'll have their strongest group available and that could be any number of players, because they do have, I think, really good depth. So I see no reason why we wouldn't get the strongest version of them

With a win, FC Cincinnati could draw even with the top spot in the Supporters’ Shield table with 24 points, and would have a game in hand with Inter Miami CF, who currently lead the league. Columbus enters the match with draws in each of their last five matches, and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

FC Cincinnati at Columbus Crew – Saturday, May 11, 2024 – 7:45 p.m. ET – Lower.Com Field

Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
TV: FS1, Fox Deportes

TV Talent (English, FS1): Mike Watts (PxP), Tony Meola (Analyst)
TV Talent (Spanish, FOX): Rodolfo Landeros (PxP), Alvar Izquierdo, Mariano Trujilo (Analyst)

TV Talent (English, Apple): Jake Zivin (PxP), Taylor Twellman (Analyst)
TV Talent (Spanish, Apple): Jorge Perez-Navarro (PXP), Marcelo Balboa (Analysis)

Radio: ESPN 1530

Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (PXP), Jimmy McLaughlin (Analyst)

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

All-time in Hell is Real

The history of these two clubs added another dramatic chapter last season when Columbus Crew defeated FCC in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to winning MLS Cup. In a game needing extra-time, Christian Rameriescored the match winner in the 115th minute to advance and end The Orange and Blue’s year in heart break.

2023 was the first time FCC and The Crew had met three times, and the first since 2017 when the two Ohio clubs met in a knockout match.

While regular season Hell is Real L matches in Cincinnati have been favorable to The Orange and Blue historically, earning points in five of six matches, trips to Columbus have been challenging with a 0-4-1 record. Last season, FCC, fresh off long break from the 2023 Leagues Cup, fell 3-0 to the Crew after a quick goal and a converted PK left FCC down a pair in the first 20 minutes.


All Lucho, All The Time – On Monday, 2023 MLS MVP Luciano ‘Lucho’ Acosta earned his sixth MLS Team of the Matchday honor in 12 weeks. Only Lionel Messi (7) has more. Acosta has recorded a goal contribution (goal or assist) in five straight games. In club history, only Acosta’s seven-game streak from April 24 - May 28, 2022 was longer. And only one streak currently active across MLS is longer - 8 games by Lionel Messi.

Brick Wall – FC Cincinnati have allowed just six goals from open play this season - the fewest in MLS. The nine total goals allowed are also tied for the fewest with CLB and RSL. Roman Celentano has 4 clean sheets, and despite playing in just seven matches, is tied for the MLS lead in the category.

One Goal Games – FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 win over Orlando last Saturday was the club’s 20th win in a one-goal game since the start of the 2023 Regular Season, by far the most in MLS (11 - NE, RBNY, RSL). After going 20-4 in one-goal games over the past two seasons, FC Cincinnati all-time are now 35-34 in MLS Regular Season play in the category.

Milestones – Last Saturday’s match at Orlando was FC Cincinnati’s 100th game under Head Coach Pat Noonan. The 2023 Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year enters Saturday with 49 career wins with FC Cincinnati (all competitions), the third-most in MLS since 2022.

Road Warrior – FC Cincinnati (4-1-1) and Minnesota United (4-1-0) are the only two MLS sides with four road wins in MLS play this season entering Matchday 13.

SCOUTING Columbus Crew (3-1-6, 9 points, 5th in Eastern Conference, D-D-D-D-D)

While winless in their last six league matches, the Columbus Crew come into Hell is Real riding a high and is one of the strongest teams in not only MLS but in Concacaf right now.

Sacrificing league continuity for Concacaf Champions Cup glory, Columbus Crew became just the seventh MLS club in history to reach the final of the Champions Cup and are looking to become the third MLS club to lift the continental trophy and earn passage to the FIFA Club World Cup.

Through a bit of scheduling luck for The Crew, they are coming off their by-week after beating CF Monterrey at Estadio BBVA last Wednesday and will have 10 days of prep time for the match.

Additionally, while Columbus has struggled away from home, despite the rotation and added games The Crew is undefeated at Lower.Com Field this season across all competitions with a 3-0-3 record. Away from home has been where the struggles have come, going winless with a 0-1-3 record.

Cucho Hernandez leads the club with four goals in league play with six others adding goals to total 12 goals in 10 matches this season. Ghana native Yaw Yaboah leads the team in assists with four and DP midfielder Diego Rossi has added three as well.

Rossi, who was added in the Summer Transfer Window last season, has yet to score in 2024 but is second highest in xG league wide among non-goal scorers with 2.54 xG.

Patrick Schulte is expected to make the start in net for Columbus but the club has used three different keepers this season while they rotate lineups. Schulte, who has conceded seven goals in eight starts, has made 17 saves this season but ranks 17th in save percentage league wide.

Wilfried Nancy leads the club as Head Coach after winning MLS Cup in his first season as manager of the club. Nancy joined The Crew after two seasons leading CF Montréal but spent over a decade in the organization as an assistant and with the academy. In his second season now, Nancy has a 19-10-15 record with The Crew and a 51-31-30 record in MLS.