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Welcome to the “Hell Is Real” rivalry between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew.
Situated in the state of Ohio, this local derby between the two sides has a very young but thrilling history that kicked off in their first meeting back in 2017.
Cincinnati fans currently have bragging rights after seeing their club take a 2-1 win in October of last year, but heading into Friday, there are no guarantees they’ll be able to make it two for two.
Gradual progress has been made for Cincinnati in recent weeks, but weaknesses remain.
And although Columbus themselves have had a somewhat erratic season so far, their ambitions will be much higher in 2021 after claiming last year’s MLS Cup.
Regardless of the proximity between the two in the Eastern Conference table, Columbus have no excuses against Cincinnati — even away from home. It’s only a matter of time before Columbus pick up their pace. Choose Columbus for the win.
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|FC Cincinnati vs Columbus Crew Information|
|Teams||FC Cincinnati vs Columbus Crew|
|Location||TQL Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)|
|Time||Friday, July 9th at 7:30 pm ET|
|How to Watch||Watch on ESPN+ here!|
Why shouldn’t Cincinnati be selected for the three points or at least a draw?
They’re undefeated in their last three games, and most importantly, they were the ones who walked out with a win in the last edition of the Hell Is Real series.
There’s a renewed sense of optimism around the team, and yet, their momentum might come to a crashing halt by Friday.
Anything can happen in a rivalry series, but up against a formidable team like Columbus who have much more to offer, Cincinnati will likely go back to looking feeble in both the defense and attack.
And while fans could point to that three-game streak without a loss, it’s also important to highlight exactly who they were facing.
Two wins and one draw in their last three games. Not bad for Cincinnati, right?
Maybe not on second look.
Their two wins (1-0 vs the Chicago Fire and 2-0 vs Toronto FC) were against clubs who have been some of the worst in MLS so far this season.
As for the 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo, at time of writing before the next round of games, the Dynamo are narrowly in the playoff conversation at 7th in the Western Conference.
In fact, Cincinnati were arguably second-best in the 1-1 draw that featured 21 shots from the Dynamo in just 90 minutes.
Cincinnati lost five of their previous seven games before their three-game undefeated streak, and after having an easy schedule, they’ll be expected to slow down against teams like Columbus.
In spite of Columbus not firing on all cylinders just yet, there’s no doubt that their ceiling and potential are much higher than that of Cincinnati’s.
Last week, we saw glimpses of what they could potentially accomplish this year.
Up against one of the top MLS teams of 2021, Columbus battled to an exciting 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution.
Sure, one of the goals was created by a bizarre defensive mistake by New England, but by the end of the 90 minutes, Columbus looked like the better side.
According to Wyscout, in comparison to the xG (expected goals) rating of 1.15 for New England, Columbus exceeded their number with a tally of 1.61.
Which is nothing new.
After a slow start to the season, Columbus’ xG has slowly but surely trended upwards as the year has progressed.
It’s worrying for Cincinnati that even after going through an easy batch of games, their defensive statistics are still quite worrisome.
They’ve allowed 18 goals in 10 matches, they’ve dealt with an average of 14.5 shots against per 90 minutes (one of the worst averages in MLS), and have a deficiency in winning aerial duels.
Their latest good run of form might not be a sign of things to come, instead, it might just be a respite before they regress back to their old ways.
Cincinnati supporters will keep their fingers crossed that the last few weeks weren’t just a flash in the pan.
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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