Hell Is Real is a fiery rivalry, but Steven Moreira has ice in his veins.
That’s why the Frenchman stood with his arms crossed – as if he was shivering – while chaos engulfed him.
Twice on Saturday night, the Columbus Crew trailed but fought back to equalize the match. The second and final time came in stoppage time, when Steven Moreira volleyed home a shot and his teammates surrounded him to celebrate. It was a great individual moment that capped a great team performance.
The Hell Is Real bragging rights remain in Columbus after the Black & Gold drew FC Cincinnati, 2-2, at TQL Stadium. With the result, the Crew maintains the seventh seed - the final Eastern Conference playoff position. Cincinnati is on the outside looking in as the eighth seed.
“These guys are fighting their asses off every single game,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “Yeah, it’s not perfect. It's football; never is. I don't think there's a team in this league that's perfect. You watch every team, they have moments where they don't win, moments where they lose, moments where they don't score when they should, moments where they give up goals. That's football; that's this league.
“But these guys are fighting their asses off. And today, they fought their asses off for our supporters. In the last 14 games, they fought their asses off every single game. A lot of those are on the road, and a draw on the road coming from behind is a great result against that team.”
This was the second time the clubs have tied by the same score line in the stadium, and on both occasions, it was the visiting fans who stayed after the match to celebrate with their coach and players.
Cincinnati struck first, this time in the 36th minute when Brandon Vazquez put the home side in front. But that goal was nullified in the 74th minute when Derrick Etienne Jr. returned to the score sheet. Etienne was the recipient of a ball played in by Juan “Cucho" Hernández, and the Haitian winger headed the ball to the back post to score against his former club.
Cincinnati regained the lead three minutes later through Matt Miazga, but it was Moreira’s late volley that leveled the scoring.
“Second half, it was all us. It was one way traffic,” Porter said. “I don't know what the shots were in the second half, but we had the total run of the play. We had way more shots than they did in the second half. And our aggressiveness, they could barely get out, we had them locked in, we had a complete grip on the game. When you do that, and you play like that, you're going to score goals.
“I loved our mentality. There are a lot of people that generalize things, and I just don't agree with generalizations. In football, you got to talk about the first half, second half, runs of play and periods of play. And our second half was outstanding; absolutely outstanding. That's why we ended up getting the draw.”
The Crew is unbeaten in 13 of its last 14 games, including seven straight positive results on the road.
Most impressively, the Black & Gold are making it difficult to get beaten. Saturday night marks two straight games in which the team rallied to earn a point. These points are piling up, as the Crew is tied with three clubs on 36 points. One of them, Inter Miami CF, travels to Lower.com Field on Wednesday in a massive midweek clash.
But before looking ahead to that game, it’s worth mentioning what Saturday meant for the Crew. Following the match, Porter shushed the Cincinnati fans, which is becoming a tradition, and joined his players to celebrate with the traveling away supporters.
Hell Is Real has been played on 10 occasions, and the Crew has earned a result in all but one contest. As fans found out last season, teams can miss the playoffs by a single point, which means every result is vital.
On Saturday night, it was the Crew celebrating the come-from-behind draw that kept the team in a postseason spot – and kept FCC out. If Cincinnati misses the playoffs by anything less than two points, well, Columbus certainly played a part in that. And that’s not something that was lost on both sides as everyone left TQL Stadium.
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