Joe Gyau - FC Cincinnati - boot high

Joseph-Claude Gyau, the owner of nine regular-season appearances for FC Cincinnati, got an immediate introduction to the “Hell is Real” rivalry upon coming to MLS last August on a transfer from MSV Duisburg.

Only two days passed between his official move and debut against the Columbus Crew, a 2-2 draw on Aug. 10, 2019. Gyau entered as a substitute in the 63rd minute, and then was an unused substitute for their second meeting, a 3-1 win for Columbus away at Nippert Stadium.

While Columbus holds a 1-0-1 series lead in MLS, Gyau feels there’s no clear edge in the Crew’s favor.

“When we talk about the fans and the atmosphere of the game, it’s definitely a great atmosphere to play in,” the one-time US international said during a conference call last week. “There’s tension between the two fans because we’re so close to each other, such a close vicinity to one another, but it’s definitely one of those games that you love to play in. 

“Now, who has the upper hand? The last time they played us, they got us. So we still have unfinished business against them. But that will definitely be settled the next time we play them."

That perspective arrives after Gyau spent a decade in Germany at various clubs, starting with Hoffenheim’s youth teams and concluding with MSV Duisburg in the 2. Bundesliga. Gyau also spent several years at Borussia Dortmund and was loaned to FC St. Pauli, two of the most storied clubs in Germany.

Comparatively, the Hell is Real rivalry stretches back to a U.S. Open Cup meeting in 2017. The newness factor draws a serious contrast to Gyau’s time in Germany, but he senses the potential.

“Because it was fresh, because it’s a new rivalry, there’s not that much tension as opposed to some of the rivalries I’ve played in in Germany, just because it’s a much older league and these have been playing against each other for years and years,” Gyau said. “So, there’s a lot of things built up. But you can definitely see there’s a lot of excitement, just because it’s so new, and that’s definitely one thing that I’ve noticed."