On Wednesday night, FC Cincinnati host Columbus Crew SC for the fourth #HellisRealDerby in 2020.
Here’s what you need to know before the last rivalry meeting at Nippert Stadium:
Abdul-Salaam: “It’s a lot to play for”
Saad Abdul-Salaam grew up in Gahanna, Ohio – miles from downtown Columbus and where the Crew house their practice facility. Now, he’s trying to beat his hometown team for the Orange and Blue, who are seeking their first win against the Columbus Crew since joining MLS.
“No matter how many times we play these guys, it’s still a rivalry,” Abdul-Salaam said. “It’s still for ourselves to get results; it’s for FCC, so for the fans. There’s a lot to play for. You’re always excited for rivalry games, so you want to show your quality.”
This game is particularly special for FCC.
If the first meeting in the MLS is Back Tournament was significant – in many ways because we didn’t know if the season would continue outside of the bubble – Wednesday night’s matchup is a known last meeting at Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati undoubtably gained MLS expansion attention when the former USL club upset the Crew, 1-0, during the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth round.
In the first matchup, the southern neighbors pummeled their first MLS franchise. But the Orange and Blue haven’t beaten the Crew since in the next five meetings.
Can FCC win in the first and last #HellisReal Derby games at Nippert Stadium before moving to West End Stadium in 2021?
“Me, a kid from Ohio, it’s a great honor to be able to come back and play in my home state, and especially for a new team in FC Cincinnati,” Abdul-Salaam said. “It’s a chance to play against guys I grew up playing with and it’s just a very special thing for me. You want to win, it’s bragging rights.”
The window to make the 2020 postseason is shrinking
Cincinnati has six games remaining in the regular season and sits five points outside of a playoff spot. If there was ever a time to build momentum and jumpstart a playoff push, it’s now, Nick Hagglund said.
“Ultimately, we had a meeting (last) week and it's about these last six games now that can determine our season,” the center back said. “In MLS, you can catch momentum and anything can happen. You get one win, that builds momentum and begins trending in the right direction. You get a second win, a third win, and suddenly you're in the playoffs. It's about looking at yourself in the mirror, looking at each other and fighting for your own pride, your teammates. It's about looking our season in the face during these next six games. You can either lie over and fall down and say that it’s over, or you can band together and look at the next game.”
Including the match against Columbus, FCC still have four-straight games at Nippert Stadium before closing the season with two road trips. That means a possible 12 points at home – which would be more than enough to get the club into the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
So, who’s healthy?
When the injury report came out for this match, six players who started a week ago against the Philadelphia Union weren’t medically cleared for the derby: Mathieu Deplagne, Greg Garza, Jürgen Locadia, Kendall Waston, Maikel van der Werff and Przemysław Tytoń.
That doesn’t mean all of them are out against Columbus. On Tuesday afternoon, head coach Jaap Stam only mentioned Tytoń by name as unavailable against Crew SC.
“There are certain names mentioned that we’re not sure of, so there are still some decisions to be made,” Stam said. “We assess all the players we have each day.”
The keyword in that last sentence is “all.” It’s worth noting that while more than a handful of starters could miss the team’s biggest match of the season, FCC do have new reinforcements.
Last week, Stam said some of the club’s players who were on loan in the USL Championship have returned to the Mercy Health Training Center. Could that mean they’re inserted into the matchday squad?
Tommy McCabe was an unused sub for Stam during the MLS is Back Tournament, but Rashawn Dally, Hassan Ndam and Rey Ortiz were already on loan when Stam arrived. Could they make their 2020 MLS debuts?
Ben Lundt, on loan with Louisville City FC, is the only on-loan player still competing in the USL Championship postseason.
FC Cincinnati hosts Columbus Crew SC
Kickoff: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nippert Stadium (no fans permitted)
Weather: 68 Degrees
TV: WSTR Star 64
In-Market Stream: www.fccincinnati.com/stream
Out-of-Market Stream: ESPN+
Local Radio: WDJO 99.5 FM | 107.9 FM | 1480 AM
Audio Stream: www.fccincinnati.com
- Fatai Alashe spent three seasons with FC Cincinnati (2018-20) and made 26 appearances across all competitions.
- Fanendo Adi scored five goals in 25 competitive appearances for FC Cincinnati in 2018 and 2019. He is the FCC’s first Designated Player in club history.
- Derrick Etienne Jr. made five appearances for FCC in 2019.
- Allan Cruz and Kendall Waston have played with Waylon Francis and Luis Díaz on the Costa Rica national team.
- Crew SC’s Younes Mokhtar played with Przemysław Tytoń (2010-12) and Jürgen Locadia (2011-12) at PSV Eindhoven. FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp signed Mokhtar at PEC Zwolle in 2016 before the winger left the eastern Dutch team in 2018.
- Eloy Room has played with two FCC players. He and Maikel van der Werff were teammates at Vitesse from 2015-17, before Room and Locadia became teammates at PSV in 2017 and 2018.
- Nick Hagglund spent time with two Columbus players at Toronto FC. He and Jordan Hamilton were at TFC together from 2014-18, while Josh Williams joined the Canadian side in 2015 and 2016.
- Fatai Alashe and Andrew Tarbell played for the San Jose Earthquakes together from 2016-18.
- Greg Garza (2018) and Brandon Vazquez (2018-19) both played with Darlington Nagbe at Atlanta United FC.
- Garza also played with Nagbe in at match for the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2017. Garza and Gyasi Zardes have appeared in the same USMNT game together on three occasions in 2015 – including once during the Concacaf Gold Cup.
- Locadia played with Eloy Room at PSV in 2017 and 2018.