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Gyasi Zardes brace helps Columbus Crew to 3-1 derby win at FC Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Just 15 days after seeing the dramatic first all-MLS edition of the “Hell Is Real” Derby end in a 2-2 draw in Columbus, the Crew defeated FC Cincinnati 3-1 Sunday night at Nippert Stadium. 

Two first-half goals from the Gyasi Zardes powered the Crew to victory, and a third from Luis Diaz just before halftime helped seal the first competitive win over their Ohio neighbors in three tries. Kekuta Manneh added a late consolation goal for FC Cincinnati in the 89th minute for his fourth of the season. 

The loss is the fifth straight for FC Cincinnati (5-19-3, 18 points). The Orange and Blue remain bottom of the East Conference table, 12 points adrift of 11th-place Columbus (8-15-6, 3o points). 

Similar start, different ending

Ohio’s contribution to MLS’ league-wide “Rivalry Week” received marquee billing with a nationally-televised broadcast on FS1. And it was with good reason, too. Despite both sides propping up the rest of the Eastern Conference, their previous meeting at a sold-out Mapfre Stadium had been a dramatic, entertaining affair. And with 30,611 in attendance for the return leg at Nippert Stadium, another lively night seemed a certainty.

The first half played out a familiar plotline to the team’s prior encounter just over a fortnight ago. The visitors would once again jump out to a 2-0 lead, with Zardes bagging both goals in an 11-minute spell. Each attack originated down the FC Cincinnati’s weakly-guarded left flank, the first assist coming from Luis Díaz and the second from Harrison Afful.  

But unlike in Columbus where the home side rallied to erase the two-goal deficit, that’s where the plots for each match diverted.

Instead of FC Cincinnati pulling one back just before half time, it was the Crew who would add the third goal of the night. Again starting on FCC’s left, Díaz fended off Andrew Gutman for Pedro Santos’ ball over the top and then blasted a shot past goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń at the near post. 

Cincinnati were improved in the second 45′, grabbing a consolation goal via former Crew attacker Kekuta Manneh. But unfortunately for the home side, a full comeback never seemed in the cards.

Same problems, different match

Conceding just before the end of a half has proven a repeat issue for FC Cincinnati throughout out their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer. And for the seventh time in their last ten home matches, FCC repeated the feat again against Columbus with Díaz’ first-half, injury-time goal.

But while FC Cincinnati head coach Ron Jans had dismissed the idea of it being a cultural problem in his squad after the last Saturday’s 4-1 home loss to NYCFC, his tune had changed after Sunday’s loss.

“It is an issue,” Jans said bluntly after the final whistle. “For me, more important were maybe the first two goals… but if you look at the stats, it has to improve. I can tell the players ‘don’t concede a goal after 35 minutes in the first half’, but I don’t know if that helps.”

The Orange and Blue’s habit of conceding late goals wasn’t the only problem Jans is struggling to figure out. In fact, just sticking to the team’s game plan appears to be problematic for the Dutchman. 

“In the first half tonight I did not see a team,” Jans continued. “I did not see players doing the game plan and I do not know why… I won’t mention names here, but they didn’t do what we wanted.”

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