CINCINNATI — After a disappointing draw at home in the first Hell is Real derby game against FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew SC wanted to make a statement on the road. They did just that, jumping out to a 3-0 halftime lead that would provide more than enough to hold on for a 3-1 win.
The traveling crowd was raucous from the start, at times equaling or overpowering the chants of home fans. This became more noticeable as the game went on, as each successive goal quieted Cincinnati fans a little more. Audible cheers for Crew players rang through the stadium, as well as chants of “USL,” harkening back to the league FC Cincinnati came from before joining MLS.
Cincinnati fans could be seen streaming out of the stadium in the second half, adding even more joy for Columbus fans, who began a “this is our house” chant.
After the match, Crew players and coaches walked over to the visiting fans for the traditional singing of “wise men say,” a home staple.
”We wanted to make a statement. We wanted to celebrate in their stadium. And we did that,” Crew captain Wil Trapp said.
The first chapter of the rivalry is in the books, but this game will always stand out as the first victory for either side.
“It’s amazing. We know what this win means for our fans,” Crew defender Jonathan Mensah said, “We all knew the magnitude of this game…and now it’s going to be talked about for years to come.”
Mensah was involved in the first truly heated moment of this rivalry, toward the end of the game. After Cincinnati winger Kekutah Manneh scored the loan FC goal, Mensah went to retrieve the ball from the back of the net. He was surrounded by multiple Cincinnati players and a shoving match ensued. The center official tried to physically restrain the players to no avail.
“I was taking the ball to the center line for us to restart and they pushed me with a forearm. I didn’t like it. I was like, ‘I’m going to hold on to this ball. This is our ball.’ They all jumped at me, and my teammates came to my aid,” Mensah said.
The end result was a yellow card to Mensah and to Victor Ulloa of FC Cincinnati. The yellow means Mensah will miss the next Crew SC game with an accumulation suspension.
With the playoffs an unlikely event, this was the most important Crew game left on the schedule, and the team rose to the occasion.
“Everyone in this locker room treated this like a cup game,” Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes said.
FC Cincinnati head coach Ron Jans was at a loss when asked about his team’s performance.
“In the first half, I didn’t see a team. Players weren’t doing the game plan, …I live in Hyde Park, but not in Dr. Jekyll and Hyde Park, so I’m not a magician,” Jans said.
Columbus will look to carry this momentum forward into the next game, an older MLS rivalry against the Chicago Fire.