Kametani and Scearce continue to shine for the Owls’ offense early in the season
PAPILLION, Neb. (April 23, 2022) – After capturing their first USL League One Championship on their home field five months prior, Union Omaha returned to Werner Park on a windy April night looking to secure their first win of 2022. Their challenge came in the form of Central Valley Fuego FC, the League One rookies that have already established themselves as a team to keep an eye on in the opening weeks of play. Last week at South Georgia Tormenta FC, Omaha’s defense excelled while the offense struggled to find its footing. With a whole new look for 2022, the team stepped into their first home match ready to make a statement.
The Owls’ first chance came early in the 2nd minute as Joe Brito lasered a free kick into the box that Daltyn Knutson headed just over the crossbar. Omaha would get another chance in the next minute, with Noe Meza nearly finding his second professional goal with a flashy bicycle kick that missed wide.
Union Omaha created several chances in the opening five minutes. The Dion Acoff to Hugo Kametani connection looked promising on several occasions, one sailing just off to the left. It was the beginning of a night full of scoring opportunities for the University of Nebraska-Omaha product.
The Fuego had to bring several aggressive challenges in order to counter the persistent attacks from Omaha, resulting in a pair of yellow cards to Sergio Chavez and Ozzie Ramos, respectively, just two minutes apart.
Central Valley Fuego would come up with its first hopeful look in the 26th minute with two consecutive corner kicks. Taken by Vilyvan Bijev, one of the team’s top goal scorers, Knutsen was able to head out the first blast and Rashid Nuhu came out of goal to block the follow-up. Nuhu, coming off a Week 3 Team of the Week performance, flashed his gloves again in the 30th minute with a save off a Maximiliano Schenfeld shot.
Meza again got the goalkeeper’s attention in the 36th minute with a dangerous free kick that was inches away from finding the back of the net. The very next minute Joe Brito threatened with a corner kick that used the heavy wind to almost curl its way in.
The Owls looked determined to go into the half with a lead, spending the final 2 minutes of play on offense. Fuego’s defense fended off any impending attacks to keep the score locked 0-0 at halftime.
Omaha didn’t waste any time in the second half to rectify that situation, though. It was the 48th minute when Kametani, coming up after an interception, dribbled up field and nailed a shot from outside the box to bring the team up 1-0.
Coach Jay Mims made his first swap of the game in the 62nd minute, bringing in Giovanni Montesdeoca for Dion Acoff in the midfield. With some fancy footwork, he would draw a yellow card on Fuego’s Nathan Smith just a minute later, but the Owls couldn’t come up with the finisher on the free kick.
With 86 minutes on the clock, Mims traded goal scorer for goal scorer as Kemal Malcolm came on to take Kametani’s place. Just four minutes later, the Jamaican national team member flashed his speed as he raced by a Fuego defender and netted his first goal in an Omaha uniform. Now with some extra insurance, all the Owls had to was safely defend for three minutes of stoppage time. They managed to do even better.
A second yellow card in the box for Chavez took him out of the match, with Diego Castillas earning one himself by challenging the ref. The veteran JP Scearce, leading the team in shots on the year, stepped up to take the ensuing penalty and capped it easily to make it 3-0 before the final whistle.
“We have a brand-new team this year, a lot of first-year pros, a lot of guys right out of college, and that means you have to develop chemistry on the field and off the field,” Mims said. “To get a result like that early in the season against a team like that just makes the group that much more cohesive.”
With the win, Omaha not only found its offensive groove, but also managed to silence one of the league’s most dangerous offenses, as Nuhu and the defense recorded their second consecutive clean sheet.
After a busy, successful seven days, the Owls will take their newly earned three points on the road with them next week with a visit to Charlotte Independence on April 30 at 7 p.m. Two weeks later, Omaha will look to keep their U.S. Open Cup hopes alive, hosting Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC at 7 p.m. on May 11 at Caniglia Field.
“It’s been a tough week, guys have to put in the work each game. Two of those being on the road is hard especially for a new, young team. I think we really proved ourselves and showed what we’re capable of this year. We’re coming out hot again, and I think we can attribute to new guys putting in work and us keeping the mentality we had last year.” -Daltyn Knutson
“It was awesome, really looking forward to my first home game. It’s great to finally get in front of them. I know they’re excited to see us and we’re glad we got the result we were looking for.” -Joe Brito
“Physically we were drained. This is the toughest we’ve ever had with three games in seven days. Toughest week we had, for our guys to grind out a victory in these tough conditions tonight is really cool.” -Jay Mims
ABOUT UNION OMAHA
Union Omaha, the 2021 USL League One Champion, is the only professional soccer team in the state of Nebraska. USL League One is a United States Soccer Federation-sanctioned professional men’s soccer league that occupies the third tier of the American soccer landscape, below USL Championship (tier two) and Major League Soccer (tier one). Union Omaha plays its home matches at Werner Park in Sarpy County, also home to the Omaha Storm Chasers of Minor League Baseball. The team is led by General Manager Peter Marlette in the front office and by Head Coach Jay Mims on the field.