The Hell is Real Derby takes place on Saturday. Here is a full preview of the match between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati and why both have reason for hope.
FC Cincinnati enter the competition with a new head coach in Jaap Stam and some new scoring threats. They’re recovering from a dumpster fire maiden 2019 MLS season. They face a surging opponent in Columbus Crew SC, who earned a dark horse rank for this tournament.
Columbus didn’t fare a great deal better in the MLS Eastern Conference than Cincinnati. The Crew came in 10th and FCC 12th, but now it’s 2020 and there is plenty of reason to be positive about Caleb Porter’s side.
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The Crew come into the MLS is Back Tournament with four points. They have shown this season the team has the personnel to succeed, especially with the acquisitions of Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe to bolster what looks like an excellent central midfield.
FC Cincinnati, meanwhile, are in far worse shape but are not totally without hope, either. They spent lavishly in the offseason, adding three new DPs in Yuya Kubo, Siem de Jong, and Jurgen Locadia. They also added center-back Tom Pettersson. A tightened groin sidelined him in the start of the season, FC Cincinnati general manager Gerard Nijkamp assures that Pettersson will win tackles, aerial duels and build a competitive possession rate for the team.
2019 Record: 6-22-6 (W-L-D)
2020 Results: 3-2 loss to New York Red Bulls; 2-1 loss to Atlanta United
Head Coach: Jaap Stam
Projected Starters: Spencer Richey, Greg Garza, Kendall Waston, Maikel van der Werff, Mathieu Deplagne, Haris Medunjanin, Frankie Amaya, Yuya Kubo, Allan Cruz, Joseph-Claude Gyau, Jurgen Locadia.
Columbus Crew SC
2019 Record: 10-16-8 (W-L-D)
2020 Results: 1-0 victory over New York City FC; 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders
Head Coach: Caleb Porter
Projected Starters: Eloy Room, Milton Valenzuela, Abobacar Keita, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful, Artur, Darlington Nagbe, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan, Luis Diaz, Gyasi Zardes.
Ultimately, the Crew are the favorites. They have the superior team, are in the superior form, however applicable that currently is, and are building towards a genuine title challenge. But do not count out FC Cincinnati. They might be dangerous just yet.