FC Cincinnati (2-4-1, 7 pts.) will be seeking revenge in the second #HellisReal showdown of the year, while Columbus Crew SC (5-1-1, 16 pts.) is looking to rebound from its first regular-season defeat when the sides square off at Nippert Stadium on Saturday night [7:30 p.m. ET / SportsTime Ohio, FOX Sports GO App(Stream) / 97.1 The Fan & 971TheFan.com (English); ColumbusCrewSC.com (Spanish)].
Both teams suffered midweek defeats on the road with FC Cincinnati falling to Chicago Fire FC in their return to Soldier Field, while Crew SC dropped a 1-0 decision to NYCFC at Red Bull Arena.
Columbus won the only other Hell is Real regular-season game played at Nippert Stadium, 3-1, last August with Gyasi Zardes striking for a brace. Crew SC thrashed FC Cincy 4-0 in Orlando last month with Zardes again scoring twice. It was Jaap Stam's first match in charge of FC Cincinnati.
FC Cincinnati fell into a 2-0 hole inside of 10 minutes before ultimately falling to the Fire, 3-0, at Soldier Field. It was a departure from the much-improved defensive form the side had shown under Stam when they conceded just once in their previous four games and came into this match after a 0-0 draw against D.C. United.
"We’ve been doing very well in the past. Even though you’re losing three-nil when you come back in the second half on the pitch, the players still are trying to get close or to score that first goal and that’s a very positive thing as well," Stam said. "But this is football. It happens at times. That makes football at times nice as well, and I don’t mean losing, but it is unpredictable at times. So, we need to keep working hard. This was for us a good eye-opener for us as well."
Columbus Crew SC
For the first time this season, Columbus suffered a regular-season defeat, dropping a 1-0 result against NYCFC Monday night. Caleb Porter rotated his squad, resting five starters. Also, it was only the second goal conceded this regular season.
"The best medicine for a loss is a win, and you want that game to come as quick as possible to erase that taste in your mouth, so I think it’s a good thing to have that game come quick," Porter said.
Defender Milton Valenzuela missed both 2019 meetings due to a season-ending knee injury and sat out the July 11 win, making Saturday's match his first potential taste in the budding rivalry.
"It’s a special rivalry more than anything because where I come from in Argentina, derbies and clasicos like that are more important than other games, and that’s the way that I see this rivalry," Valenzuela said on Thursday.
"Last year I had to watch [this match] and live it from the stands and I felt it just as much as the other guys on the field. It’s a game that it’s a plus in my eyes, and hopefully, I can play, give it my all and we can achieve a good win."
Valenzuela started in Crew SC's 3-0 win over Chicago on Aug. 20 and came on as a second-half sub against New York City FC on Aug. 24.
Cincinnati's performance in the MLS is Back Tournament, primarily in the latter two matches of the Group Stage and into the Round of 16, displayed their willingness to sit back and counter, something midfielder Artur said the Crew is prepared for.
"We always try to score first. We’re not going to change that in this [upcoming] game, but also we know they sit back and defend with a lot of players and it’s not going to be easy," Artur said.