It is the third edition of the "Hell is Real" match in 2020 as Columbus Crew SC (6-1-2, 20 pts.) hosts FC Cincinnati (2-4-3, 9 pts.) Sunday night at MAPFRE Stadium [7:30 p.m. ET / SportsTime Ohio, FOX Sports GO (Stream) / 97.1 The Fan & 971TheFan.com (English), ColumbusCrewSC.com (Spanish)].
Crew SC is coming off a big 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union which moved them atop the Eastern Conference table, while FC Cincinnati played Chicago Fire FC to a 0-0 draw at Nippert Stadium.
Lucas Zelarayan scored his fourth goal of the season (and third from outside the box) to push Crew SC atop the Supporters' Shield standings. Currently, the Black & Gold sit two points above Toronto FC, who have only played Montreal and Vancouver during Phase 1 of the post-MLS is Back Tournament schedule.
Back on July 11, Crew SC won the first meeting this season in dominating fashion, taking a 4-0 victory at the MLS is Back Tournament. The teams played to a 0-0 draw at Nippert last Saturday. The teams also played to a 2-2 draw in their only other MAPFRE Stadium encounter with Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos erasing a two-goal deficit following first-half goals by Darren Mattocks and Emmanuel Ledesma.
Columbus Crew SC
In a showdown between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Crew SC flexed their muscles and beat a Philadelphia Union team that had previously gone unbeaten in its last three matches while outscoring opponents 5-1.
Back at full-strength, Zelarayan scored the lone goal early in the second half, marking Crew's first tally in 244 minutes.
"In these types of games it’s going to be tight, and often times two good teams, it’s going to be one goal either way, and I’m real proud of our guys that we were able to find that bit of quality from Lucas Zelarayan," Caleb Porter said. "[It’s] obviously great having him back, great for him to get another goal and another clean sheet as well for our group."
The Crew continues its best start in Club history with seven shutouts in nine matches, and the Black & Gold will look to post their third consecutive shutout against Cincy in 2020.
When asked about the defensive success this year, Porter reiterated that it's a function of the team's style, not any one goalkeeper or backline unit.
“We are taking pride in not giving up goals and chances, but I think the reason is because we are an attacking team, not because we are a defensive team. We take a lot of pressure off the defense when we have the ball.
"You don’t see teams get too close to our goal, but when they do, you see we are organized, we aren’t stretch, and you see our guys will do whatever it takes to win games and make plays to win games.”
It was another stout defensive effort, the fifth clean sheet of the season, but FC Cincinnati failed to score for a fourth consecutive game and played Chicago Fire FC to a 0-0 home draw Wednesday night.
"We always speak about this, about offensively going forward, creating opportunities," coach Jaap Sttam said. "That is what we have done today. We played against a good team. It is not always easy to create a lot of opportunities. The ones you get, you have to finish. That happened today, again, which we didn’t do unfortunately."