Another chapter in the Hell Is Real rivalry is in the books, but this one may have caused more paper cuts than usual. While the previous page ended painfully for the Orange and Blue, the squad at least managed a draw. Columbus claimed all three points this time on a steamy Friday night at Lower.com Field, stealing away an early FC Cincinnati lead to win 3-2.
While FC Cincinnati (13th place, 3-8-9, 17 points) had the opportunity to cement up a vital win on the road, the Crew (eighth place, 7-6-9, 27 points) now has taken four of the wins in the rivalry and have never lost to Cincinnati at home (2-1-0).
Both teams had been in a funk lately, with FC Cincinnati losing 4-1 at New England on Saturday and Columbus giving up two late goals to Seattle to lose 2-1 at home. The war at TQL Stadium back in July resulted in a 2-2 draw, even though FC Cincinnati held an early lead and Columbus played with 10 men. Both teams had momentum to reverse and needed a win more than a draw.
The Orange and Blue gave Columbus a run for the first 40 minutes of the highly-contested first half. However, while Columbus stitched together runs when possessing the ball, FC Cincinnati’s unforced errors almost bit it. Nick Hagglund failed to clear a deep pass in the ninth minute, allowing the Crew to attack, only for Luis Diaz and Lucas Zelarayan to hit the post and crossbar, respectively.
FC Cincinnati still managed more pressure in the Columbus end as the first half progressed. Brenner attempted a free shot after a Columbus turnover, only to hit the shot wide. Florian Valot had the best look on net in the 27th minute, but his header was blocked from traffic in the box.
Columbus managed to capitalize from its best opportunity in the 45th minute. Zelarayan lined a free kick from a Hagglund foul from the top of the 18-yard box, beating the wall and Kenneth Vermeer easily to make the game 1-0.
However, the pressure from FC Cincinnati lasted throughout the extra time tacked onto the first half. A resulting corner kick in the third minute of extra time made its way to Ronald Matarrita, who clobbered a left-footed rocket past Eloy Room to knot it at 1-1 at halftime.
Surprisingly, the numbers were quite even after the first half. Columbus barely held the advantage in possession (51%-49%), but both teams held the same number of shots (eight) and shots on goal (two).
While Columbus was taking advantage of increased possession in the second half, Vermeer managed to squash the offensive push, making five saves in the first 25 minutes of the second half. The defensive parry turned into a quick strike for FC Cincinnati. Luciano Acosta led a charge in the 74th minute off of a Vermeer save, finding Isaac Atanga on the right. Atanga lined up a left-footed shot to beat Room for his first MLS goal, giving the Orange and Blue their first lead of the game at 2-1.
FC Cincinnati had been playing with fire with the Columbus attack and finally got burned late in the game. While Vermeer had been playing well to quash shots on goal, Columbus finally managed to get more bodies into the box. A deep shot by Pedro Santos in the 81st minute clattered in Vermeer’s arms, and Miguel Berry picked up the rebound to knot the score.
More gasoline was added to the inferno just seconds later. A shot by Alexandru Mitan in the 82nd minute was saved by Vermeer, only for the rebound to deflect off Berry to make it a 3-2 game. Sometimes the snake bite stings harder when particular players score — Berry has scored three goals in six games this year, and all three have been against FC Cincinnati.
While FC Cincinnati had other opportunities in the end, Columbus managed to salt away the time to win this year’s rivalry. The Orange and Blue’s away record falls to 3-3-6, while the Crew captured their second win at Lower.com Stadium (2-2-3). Friday’s loss left Cincinnati winless in 11 games, while Columbus halted its six-game losing streak.
FC Cincinnati returns home to face Inter Miami on Sept. 4, while Columbus travels to Orlando.
Matchday 20 – Columbus Crew SC vs. FC Cincinnati
Lower.com Field, Columbus, Ohio
Result: Columbus Crew SC 3, FC Cincinnati 2.
Columbus Crew SC Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Eloy Room (GK), Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah (c), Vito Wormgoor (Aboubacar Keita 77’), Pedro Santos; Darlington Nagbe, Liam Fraser (Alexandru Matan 77’); Luis Diaz (Waylon Francis 62’), Lucas Zelarayan, Derrick Etienne Jr.; Bradley Wright-Phillips (Miguel Berry 73’)
Bench: Evan Bush, Grant Lillard, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Isaiah Parente, Erik Hurtado
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-3-3):
Kenneth Vermeer (GK), Nick Hagglund, Geoff Cameron (Haris Medunjanin 89’), Gustavo Vallecilla, Ronald Matarrita; Yuya Kubo, Luciano Acosta (c), Allan Cruz; Alvaro Barreal, Brenner (Brandon Vasquez 70’), Florian Valot (Isaac Atanga 65’).
Bench: Edgar Castillo, Chris Duvall, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Arquimedes Ordonez, Caleb Stanko, Przemyslaw Tyton
CMB – Zelarayan 45’
CIN – Matarrita 45+3’
CIN – Atanga 74’ (Acosta)
CMB – Berry 81’
CMB – Berry 83’
vs. Inter Miami, 8 p.m. Sept. 4, TQL Stadium