PAPILLION, Neb. (June 18, 2022) – Union Omaha vs. Greenville Triumph: the rematch everyone had been waiting for. The two League One heavyweights, being the last two standing in the previous two seasons, were ready to square off in a pivotal early season match-up Saturday night at Werner Park. It was the same site where, just seven months prior, Union Omaha shutout Greenville 3-0 en route to its first USL League One title.
The atmosphere was a little different Saturday in front of 3,662 fans, who were eager to watch the team hopefully continue its four-game unbeaten streak. In a crowded league table, Omaha and Greenville sat at 6th and 4th, respectively, each within a game of first place. With both teams tied in clean sheets and near the lowest in the league for goals conceded, it seemed apparent that scoring first would be the key to success.
The opening minutes were slow but steady for the Owls, who would end up holding on to 60% possession on the night.
Isaac Bawa looked ready to get his second assist in as many games in the 17th minute, zipping a low cross into the box that Hugo Kametani nearly put into the back of the net.
The first yellow card of the match was awarded to Greenville’s Noah Pilato in the 21st minute. Omaha would earn one of its own three minutes later with a challenge by Kemal Malcolm.
Bawa energized the crowd again in the 28th minute, with a fiery shot all the way out near the center circle that almost found goal but was palmed down by the Triumph keeper.
The Owls started to Institute pressure in the final minutes of the half, looking to find that crucial first breakthrough goal on the scoresheet. In the 43rd minute, they used their dangerous counterattack to create another challenge, with Joe Brito feeding Malcolm for a great look at the penalty arc that fell into the arms of the goalkeeper.
The Triumph struck first, as Christian Labovitz was able to slip the ball just past a diving Rashid Nuhu in goal. It was the first time the Owls trailed at the half in league play all season, and work had to be done in the second half if Omaha wanted to retain its unblemished record at home. Head coach Jay Mims made his first substitutions at the half, bringing on Yoskar Edu Galvan, Dion Acoff, and JP Scearce.
Jake Keegan put a dagger in the hearts of the Omaha faithful in the 57th minute, catching the Owls’ defense vulnerable after Nuhu came out of goal. The ball bounced over Nuhu’s head and into the net, putting the Triumph up 2-0 and making a comeback look even more intimidating. It was a new position for the Owls, who’ve only ever trailed by one goal this season.
Bawa tried curling in a shot in the 67th minute but wasn’t able to tail it back inside the rear post.
Mims made another swap in the 76th, switching Gordon for Emir Alihodžić. The tension of the match came to a head soon after in the 86th minute, with Alihodžić and Marcus Smart each earning yellow cards after a hard clash.
“Like the fans, we got frustrated and the players got frustrated and started to lose their discipline … and we have to manage the game a little better,” Mims said.
Alihodžić dribbled into the box and put a quality strike on goal in the 88th minute that was deflected off a Greenville defender. It was one of those nights for Omaha, where Mims would go on to say his squad “didn’t give up a lot, but didn’t create a lot either.”
“We had 6 or 7 first-year pros starting the game tonight, and it’s tough to have inconsistencies like that, but we’ve done a great job this year so far of being pretty consistent and being good. And this was one of those nights where we weren’t good.”
The Owls put forth a solid last-chance effort in the 95th minute, with Rivera finding Scearce in the box for a close header. But it ultimately wasn’t enough, with the Triumph spoiling Omaha’s undefeated record at home.
“Good news is that we get to play them a couple more times so we’ll be ready,” Mims said. “We’ll be prepared.”
Union Omaha has an action-packed week ahead where it can look to turn the tides after the loss, first turning its attention to the “I-29 Derby” this Wednesday, June 22. The Owls will take on Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, before heading back on the road to South Georgia Tormenta FC on June 25. They will return to their nest at 7 p.m. on July 1, playing host to Charlotte Independence for Youth Soccer Night.
“Looking forward to Wednesday, and then we’ll look to get back to business against Tormenta” -Eddie Gordon
“It was a deflected goal, and we know that happens. But we know at home that first goal is really important.” -Gordon
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.