J.P. Scearce scores early for his team-leading 5th goal in league play
FRESNO, Calif. (August 6, 2022) – Omaha’s defense silenced once again Saturday night, as the offense was able to find an early goal to snag 3 points from Central Valley Fuego FC.
It was Omaha’s first visit to Fuego FC in the home side’s inaugural season and the teams’ second meeting overall, after the Owls cruised to a 3-0 victory in their home opener on April 23. It was the highest-scoring match for the Owls on the season thus far, and they were hoping to produce a similar result on the road this time out.
Noe Meza opened the game with a prime free kick opportunity in front of goal in the 2nd minute. He struck it well but it landed just over the crossbar.
Ryen Jiba had two dangerous back-to-back chances in the 7th and 8th minutes, the first using a half-volley to smack a shot on target and the second sending a strong curler towards the back post, both being picked up by Ofek Antmann.
Omaha’s first major test of the match came in the 15th minute, when Central Valley was rewarded a penalty after a sliding save attempt from Rashid Nuhu. Villyan Bijev, tied as Fuego’s team-leading scorer, stepped up to take the shot and gave a stutter-step, ultimately giving Nuhu enough time to slide and save the attempt.
The Owls’ early offensive pressure paid off in the 23rd minute with a corner kick taken by Conor Doyle. It was veteran to veteran as JP Scearce rose above the fold and sent a header into the back of the net to put the visitors up 1-0. It was Scearce’s team-leading 5th goal of the season in league play and Doyle’s second assist of the year.
Each team booked yellow cards, first for Fuego’s Jesus Partida in the 29th minute and then Omaha’s Joe Brito in the 40th.
Omaha brought on its first subs in the middle of the second half, with Dion Acoff, Eddie Gordon, and Chavany Willis entering the pitch for Hugo Kametani, Jiba, and Luis Gil.
The subs made their presence felt soon after in the 79th minute with a challenging counterattack. Acoff sent the ball up field for Willis, who found space in between two red jerseys. Willis, coming off a League One Goal of the Week performance after his late heroics last weekend, almost produced again, but the ball was deflected off a Fuego defender for a corner kick.
Soon after, Omaha’s newest forward, Corey Hertzog, subbed on for Brito to try and find a late offensive push for some extra security.
A gutsy last-minute save sealed the deal for the Owls. Fuego had a final opportunity to equalize and snatch a point back in the dying embers of the match with a set piece. Sam Strong dealt it into Jose Villarreal for what appeared to be a sure goal at close range, but Nuhu was able to slide and use his feet to protect his post and deny the entry. Daltyn Knutson cleared it out to send the Owls away with the win, their 8th straight unbeaten result and 2nd consecutive win over Central Valley.
Omaha will hope to carry the momentum into next week for a 3-match homestand, starting with Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC at 7 p.m. on Saturday for “One Means All” Community Night, Women in Sports Night, and Singles Night. The Owls will then host Charlotte Independence at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17 for Pups at the Pitch followed by North Carolina FC at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 20 for Around the World Night.
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.