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May 19, 2023 4:36 pm

FC Cincinnati aim to protect home turf in battle with Crew

The Columbus Crew will play a fourth straight match in Ohio but this time the fans won’t be on their side when they travel to FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cincinnati (8-1-3, 27 points) has the most points in MLS on the strength of a historic run at home.

It can become the third team in the post-shootout era (since 2000) to win their first eight home games of a season, joining the San Jose Earthquakes (10 wins, 2002) and the Philadelphia Union (nine, 2020).

“What I like is the fact that we’re winning in front of these fans that have obviously struggled to find some consistency and see results like this on a consistent basis,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. “So, it’s nice for them. It’s certainly good for our guys in maintaining momentum in this building. You have to win at home and that was one of our goals.”

The Crew (5-4-3, 18 points) are coming off a 2-0 victory vs. the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday to salvage three points from a disappointing 1-1-1 homestand.

Columbus is 1-6-6 in its past 13 road games back to last season but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the first edition of the Hell Is Real derby, as the often-contentious battle between Ohio clubs is called.

“It’s not another game because it’s a rivalry,” Crew coach Wilfried Nancy said. “I want to see how the players react. Sometimes they put too much attention on the rivalry and not the tactics. It’s not easy to find the balance.

“Our job is to give them the tools to be good on the pitch, give them the tools to be intense but to also be cool because sometimes in a rivalry one guy is going to be out with a red card or something like that. I don’t want that.”

Noonan was pleased his players did not look past the Montreal game on Wednesday, a 3-0 home victory for Cincinnati.

“My job during the week was to not bring up Columbus,” he said. “Now the focus quickly turns to certainly an important game again on our home field.”

Columbus was 1-0-1 versus Cincinnati last season.

— Field Level Media

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