FC Cincinnati douses Columbus Crew SC in ‘Hell Is Real Derby’

Hell Is Real Derby

Photo credit: USL

CINCINNATI —Β When MLS’ Columbus Crew SC and the USL’s FC Cincinnati meet it’s called the “Hell Is Real Derby” for a reason. And no, it’s not just because of an awkward billboard that displays the phrase on Interstate 71 between the two Ohio cities. OK, so it is, but on Wednesday evening it might as well have been for the hellacious confines of Nippert Stadium.

FC Cincinnati bested Crew FC 1-0 in U.S. Open Cup action in a match that wasn’t just another night at the boisterous stadium; it was a record-setting one — more on that later.

“When we started this wonderful club in this wonderful sports town, we wouldn’t have dreamed of a night like tonight,” said emotional FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding after the match. “The environment and the energy, that’s a big league soccer experience.”

Jeff Berding

Photo credit: Aaron Gunyon/Soc Takes

Early on, Crew SC mostly tried to possess, while FC Cincy absorbed pressure and countered. The home side flummoxed Crew SC by doing an excellent job of tracking back defensively in numbers. And despite a lopsided 11-3 halftime shot disparity in favor of the visitors, the hosts arguably generated the more dangerous opportunities before the break.

Columbus also saw more of the ball in the second half, but again Cincinnati’s pseudo 5-3-2 formation caused Crew SC problems in the final third. In the 64th minute, FC Cincy’s absorb-and-counter strategy finally paid off.

Djiby Fall challenged for a 50-50 ball in the middle of the box and ended up heading the ball straight back up in the air, creating another 50-50 ball. Not only did Djiby do well to win the second one, he actually generated enough torque to loft his header past the outstretched fingertips of Crew SC goalkeeper Brad Stuver.

Crew SC turned up the heat toward the end of the contest to find an equalizer, especially in a pressure-packed six minutes of stoppage time. But Adam Jahn’s sliding opportunity on an open net in the waning minutes of the match only made partial contact with the ball. And moments later, Federico Higuain blasted a volley just over the crossbar just before the final whistle.

Justin Meram gave Columbus fans a scare when the winger hit the turf to receive treatment in the 18th minute and briefly exited the pitch, but was able to re-enter. He and FCC defender Justin Hoyte later exchanged heated words and a shove after the final whistle.

Justin Meram

Photo credit: Aaron Gunyon/Soc Takes

In fact, Meram got heckled by his own contingent of supporters on his way to the locker room, which resulted in the Iraqi international giving his own fans the finger-waving treatment.

The official attendance at Nippert Stadium was a whopping 30,160, which appeared to consist of about 95 percent FC Cincinnati supporters. The number set a record for the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

Hell is definitely real. There will be a draw and coin flip Thursday to determine FC Cincinnati’s next opponent and venue.

Next up for Crew SC is a trip south to face Atlanta United FC on Saturday in MLS regular season action. Likewise, FC Cincy will resume USL play at home Saturday against the Charleston Battery, who currently sit in first place atop the Eastern Conference standings.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KJboxing.

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