The biggest match of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season in MLS arrives Sunday night when the Orange and Blue host Columbus Crew SC at Nippert Stadium in the series finale of the #HellisReal Derby.
The first meeting ended 2-2 on Aug. 10 at MAPFRE Stadium. The rematch will be the first time the Crew visit Nippert Stadium since June 2017, when FCC beat the northern neighbor, 1-0, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Here are the three things to watch for Sunday night on primetime television:
“It’s going to be a battle.”
Generally speaking, whatever your team captain states is usually the whole team’s belief. Kendall Waston’s comments about #HellisReal in Cincinnati reiterate that.
The captain and center back said Columbus coming to the Queen City should see a packed Nippert Stadium that’s eager for FCC to remain unbeaten against Columbus and win their first match under Head Coach Ron Jans.
When these teams met earlier this month, the match ended with Victor Ulloa needing five stitches for a wound above his left eye, a raucous atmosphere and tempers flaring throughout the match.
When the final whistle sounded, Cincinnati saw a two-goal lead evaporate but were lucky to earn a point. As for Columbus, they struggled from the onset but gained momentum late.
Will that carry over into Cincinnati?
This match arrives at a much better time for the Orange and Blue than when they last met at MAPFRE Stadium.
The week leading up to this season’s first #HellisReal Derby was arguably the busiest for Cincinnati this season.
On the Sunday before, Ron Jans was appointed the club’s fourth-ever head coach and was introduced during a press conference the next day. On Tuesday, Jans held his first training session with his new team.
All of this doesn’t even include the three player transactions that week – one player left while two joined. So, by the time the rivalry match kicked off, there were enough storylines to fit in a month let alone in a seven-day span.
That won’t be the case Sunday.
Instead, Jans has coached two matches now, has a better understanding of his players and has begun implementing his philosophies.
Sunday night is about bragging rights.
It’s pretty simple.
At this point, yes, technically both clubs can still make the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it’ll take a near flawless end to the regular season and some luck along the way. Because that’s the situation for both teams, they enter Sunday in the same circumstance.
But it’s more than that for Cincinnati.
Thousands of Orange and Blue fans grew up going to Crew games. When they wanted to watch MLS, Columbus had the closest club. Now, we have one in our city. FC Cincinnati have become known for their rabid following.
Sunday night is the biggest match the club has ever played at home. Therefore, the #HellisReal Derby will be more than a game. The players have shared that message. Now, it’s about the fans proving it, too.
What: FC Cincinnati host Columbus Crew SC
Kickoff: 6 p.m.
Where: Nippert Stadium
Weather: 80 degrees, Mostly Cloudy
Listen: WDJO (99.5 FM, 107.9 FM and 1480 AM)
Tickets: Purchase your tickets here.
Player to Watch and his Health Carousel Player Resume
- Kekuta Manneh made 19 appearance for Columbus Crew SC in 2017.
- Allan Cruz and Luiz Diaz were both at Herediano earlier this year.
- Nick Hagglund played with Jordan Hamilton at Toronto FC from 2014-19. Josh Williams joined in 2015-16.
- Frankie Amaya and Aboubacar Keita have played together on the U.S. Under-20 National Team.
- Logan Gdula and Jon Kempin played together on loan at Hartford Athletic.
- Maikel van der Werff and Eloy Room played together at Vitesse from 2015-17.
- Youness Mokhtar played under Ron Jans at PEC Zwolle in 2016-17. General Manager Gerard Nijkamp was the technical director at the time.
- Forrest Lasso and Romario Williams played for the Charleston Battery in 2016-17.
- Crew SC Head Coach Caleb Porter coached Fanendo Adi (2015-18), Alvas Powell 2013-17, and Darren Mattocks (2013-17). Porter also coached Mattocks at the Univeristy of Akron in 2010-11.
- Adi, Powell and Mattocks played with David Guzman between 2017-18 in Portland.
Opponent's Player to Watch: Forward Gyasi Zardes
The U.S. Men’s National Team forward converted a penalty in the first matchup and is Crew SC’s biggest scoring threat.
In 22 matches played this season, Zardes has nine goals and two assists.