PAPILLION, Neb. (July 1, 2022) – It was a rare Friday night match-up at Werner Park as Union Omaha hosted Charlotte Independence for the first time.
The Owls came in with a last-minute loss to avenge after the two sides’ meeting in Charlotte on April 30. After a solid finish from Noe Meza to put the Owls up, they would hold onto the lead for almost the entirety of the second half. The Independence saved their scoring for the closing minutes, notching their first in the 84th minute. A close call at the goal line proved to be the difference maker as Omaha saw its three points vanish in the span of just over 10 minutes. Charlotte would go on a tear after that match to top the table in its first League One season, although it had since fallen off a bit in the month of June.
Omaha would first see a quality look in the 15th minute off a long throw in from Isaac Bawa. Emir Alihodžić won the flick-off and headed it to JP Scearce, the latter stabbing the ball wide of goal.
Dion Acoff took a prime chance in the 33rd minute, almost slamming a curling strike in from outside the box. He had another opportunity just seconds later off a beauty of a cross from Alihodžić, just missing the near post.
The Independence went on a string of yellow cards, starting in the 36th minute with Omar Ciss. In the 44th minute, Jefferson Amaya earned another, and Illia Shevtsov tallied again in the 50th minute with a hard tackle on Scearce.
Scearce, no stranger to the goal sheet as the Owls’ top scorer this season, tried to record his third goal in 2 weeks, a headed attempt off a challenging cross from Bawa.
Omaha’s first swaps of the night came in the 68th minute, with Alihodžić and Acoff giving way to Yoskar Edu Galvan and Hugo Kametani. A minute later, Shalom Dutey earned the Independence’s fourth yellow card with a foul at midfield.
There was a frenzy in the box in the 71st minute with several Owls getting looks and touches on the ball. Joe Brito trapped the ball on his chest and let it fly, sending Charlotte keeper Adrian Zendejas off sliding on the save.
Daltyn Knutson came up with a clutch goal line clearance in the 74th minute after Rashid Nuhu came out to bat another shot away.
Kametani issued some solid ball work in the 79th minute, working to stiff-arm and spin around a defender to shoot, but it was scooped up by Zendejas. Seconds later, Brito would be subbed off for Gabriel Claudio.
The Owls would get their best opportunity to etch their name on the score line in the 84th minute when Grayson Barber was escorted off the pitch with a red card on a tough foul. The Owls now had just a few minutes to capitalize being up a man.
Scearce narrowly missed his chance in the 89th minute, a dangerous shot that just sailed over the crossbar. It summed up the theme of the night for Omaha, who played a tough game offensively with plenty of close opportunities that just couldn’t find the net. The Owls outshot the Independence 17-5, with 5 of those being on goal.
“I thought effort tonight was amazing, and if one team was going to score, we were going to score,” Union Omaha head coach Jay Mims said.
The Owls’ first and only caution of the night fell on Edu Galvan to begin stoppage time. Charlotte would match that with another, this time on Clay Dimick.
Omaha’s final chance came on a free kick given just outside the box. The captain Conor Doyle stepped up to take the service, driving the ball in and narrowly missing the heads of several Owls. It was again a scoreless night at Werner Park, Omaha recording a 0-0 draw at home for the second time this season.
Mims commented on how, although the Owls couldn’t find a breakthrough, he thought the team looked to be trending in a better direction from the loss several weeks ago.
“It seemed to be going in one direction the whole game, which was whichever direction we were going, so I thought we were good … Obviously we’re disappointed not scoring, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
“It’s definitely good not to lose at home, so that’s always a positive. But we have definitely have to start winning at home, because we want to protect our home,” Brito said.
Los Búhos return to the road again next week, where they’ve experienced a successful run over the past month. The team is a riding a 3-match away win streak into North Carolina FC for an interesting match-up, as the two teams sit at 5th and 6th in the standings, respectively. Omaha will have to wait until July 16 to notch its next points at home, when it hosts FC Tucson for 402 Night.
“For a lot of guys, it’s our first few times playing on this field so just trying to learn and get used to it, too.” -Brito
“I thought the goal was coming. Even in the last minute, I thought we were gonna get the goal up until the very end.” -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.