Crew-FC Cincinnati Preview
Friday's match between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew is "a little bit bigger than the others," Caleb Porter acknowledges.
The Hell is Real rivalry renews this week with the latest derby at TQL Stadium.
Cincy have lost every game since moving to their new stadium but did beat Columbus in the sides' most recent meeting last season.
There is a bigger picture beyond this match as both teams sit below the playoff line - the hosts significantly so - yet Crew coach Porter appreciates the importance of the fixture.
"I think we're always motivated. It's our jobs; we have to keep our jobs and, to keep our jobs, we have to perform well," he said.
"I think [the rivalry] is definitely something more that's played up. We're always motivated. We have reasons to want to play.
"But this is definitely one of those games that's a little bit bigger than the others, we know that - mainly because of our supporters and how bad they want to beat the city down the street."
Porter expects a "chippy, emotional game" against a "very desperate" team, but opposite number Jaap Stam says Cincy will approach this match like any other.
"We're approaching it the same way as every game: try to get a result and hopefully we can have a win," Stam said.
"Also, we know that we are facing a very good team, a very good side.
"They've got their strengths but still we've got to keep continuing what we've been doing the last couple weeks in the progress that we've been making - the work rates, the quality at times, showing going forward, converting opportunities and defending well, and scoring goals."
FC Cincinnati - Alvaro Barreal
Cincinnati continue to have problems in front of goal as one of only two teams in the East to have netted fewer than Columbus this season. Barreal netted last time out against the Houston Dynamo and looks their most likely regular source of goals based on his performances this season. He has rained in a team-high 22 non-penalty shots and has outperformed his 2.1 expected goals by scoring three times.
Columbus Crew - Lucas Zelarayan
Zelarayan was the Crew's MLS Cup final hero last season but has not quite hit the heights in 2020. Although he has three goals, the midfielder has not scored in his past five outings. With a host of key team-mates out due to either injury or international duty, Zelarayan is more important than ever in another big game.
- FC Cincinnati recorded their first Hell is Real derby win last October with a 2-1 home victory over the Crew. Columbus had won three of the first five meetings (D2) with their Ohio rivals, outscoring them 12-3 in those games.
- All 11 points FC Cincinnati have collected this season have come on the road. Cincinnati have lost six straight home matches dating back to the end of last season, one shy of equalling the longest home losing streak in the post-shootout era (since 2000), set by FC Cincinnati themselves from July to September 2019.
- Columbus have won just one of their past 18 away matches (D8 L9) dating back to September 2019. The Crew have failed to score in five of their past six on the road, only finding the net via two Zelarayan direct free-kick goals in a 2-1 win over New York City FC in May.
- FC Cincinnati scored in all three matches of their road trip, the first time the club have managed to find the net in three straight regular season matches, home or away, since a run of eight straight games with a goal from June to September 2019.
- No player has scored more goals against a single opponent than Gyasi Zardes against FC Cincinnati (seven) since Cincinnati joined MLS in 2019.
Updated July 8, 2021