Written by: Kyra Campbell
FC Cincinnati (9-1-3) beat the Columbus Crew (5-5-3) 3-2 on Saturday for its first Hell is Real victory since 2020 and the first one with fans in attendance since the inaugural derby in 2017. TQL Stadium was sold out for the 6th time this season. FCC became just the third team in MLS history to win their first eight home games to start the season. The Orange and Blue remain on top of the table, sitting on 30 points, 5 points clear of second place LAFC (7-1-4).
Cincinnati reverted back to its typical starting IX after some midweek rotation on Wednesday. One notable change, however, came in the form of Dominique Badji, who got his second start of the season filling in for Sergio Santos, who is out with a groin injury. Ray Gaddis also returned to the starting lineup at right wingback.
FCC was off to a great start when it went up 1-0 in the 17th minute, thanks to a Luciano Acosta goal assisted by Badji. That was Lucho’s fourth goal of the season. Lucho would get his fifth goal of the season six minutes later in the 23rd minute, when he buried a penalty awarded after the Crew’s Phillip Quinton fouled Badji in the box. FC Cincinnati seemed to lose momentum towards the end of the first half, which allowed Columbus an opportunity to get back into the game. Lucas Zelarayan would help the Crew do just that, when he scored in the 40th minute. Columbus came out of the locker room after half time with that same momentum and were able to find an equalizer in the 52nd minute, when Malte Amundsen scored off a rebound from a save Roman Celentano couldn’t quite hold onto. FCC went ahead 3-2 in the 67th minute when Acosta stole the ball off Columbus keeper Patrick Schulte when he was attempting to play it out from the back. The ball eventually found its way to Junior Moreno, who slotted the ball into the back of the net, scoring his third goal of the season. FCC was able to hold on through the rest of the match, largely due to some great saves by Celentano, including a spectacular one to deny Steven Moreira’s header in the 93rd minute.
FC Cincinnati will now turn its attention back to the U.S. Open Cup, as they travel to take on the New York Red Bulls in the Round of 16 on Tuesday. The match kicks off at 7:30pm and fans can catch the action on the Bleacher Report App or the B/R Football YouTube channel. FCC will return to MLS league play next weekend, when they travel out to Denver to take on the Colorado Rapids (2-6-6).