By Okon Ekpenyong
The Battle of In-State Rivalry, Hell is Real, between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati is set to take place next Saturday, Dec 2nd, as the two teams face off in the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the MLS Cup.
This will be the first time the two teams will face off in the MLS Playoffs, but they have had regular-season battles over the years. Cincinnati defeated Philadelphia to advance to the conference finals 1-0, while Columbus edged Orlando in extra time 2-0 to set up the Hell is Real face-off. In 2022, FC made it into the MLS playoffs for the first time, which ignited the flame for the young franchise. This year, they not only make it into the playoffs but also are the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
So, this will be Cincinnati’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Final, while it will be the fourth for Columbus. This game marks the culmination of the in-state rivalry, and both teams are sure to bring their best. The stakes are high, as the winner will be one step closer to the MLS Cup and bragging rights in Ohio.
The second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal was an exciting one, with both teams pushing for a chance to advance to the conference final. After going scoreless in regular time, Columbus’ C. Ramirez scored in the 93rd minute, and J. Hernández scored in the 118th minute. For Cincinnati, MLS MVP candidate Y. Mosquera scored in the 90th+4th minute to keep the crowd on their feet in anticipation of the game ahead.
Cincinnati had the best record in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, winning 20 games, drawing 9, and losing 5, while Columbus was third, winning 16 games, drawing 9, and losing 9. During the regular season, the two teams met twice times. Cincinnati won 3-2 in the rivalry week in May, and Columbus won 3-0 on August 20th.
Cincinnati is a relatively young franchise beginning the MLS season in 2019, but the crew started their season in 1996.
The FC’s defense significantly affected their success, as they only allowed 39 goals throughout the season. So, this starkly contrasted the Crew’s defense, who allowed 46 goals total. Despite this, the Crew came out ahead in total goals by a difference of 21 to 18, thanks in part to their higher assist total of 57 compared to the FC’s 39.
The game is sure to be a thriller, as both teams will be fighting hard to come out on top. All eyes will be on the matchup as it will surely be an intense battle. Who will come out on top and advance to the MLS Cup? We will have to wait and see.