Conor Doyle scores his first league goal in draw against South Georgia Tormenta
PAPILLION, Neb. (October 8, 2022) – Make it three USL League One playoff appearances in three years for Union Omaha as the Owls’ 1-1 draw Saturday night was enough to punch their ticket into the postseason.
The Owls returned to Werner Park in a monumental match-up for their playoff hopes. Omaha and South Georgia entered the night separated by just a point in the standings. A win for either side clinched an official birth into the USL League One playoffs presented by Hisense, although the Owls had the benefit of also being able to clinch with a draw.
Omaha spent much of the opening of the game applying pressure in Tormenta’s half, recording its first on-target attempt in the 16th minute, when JP Scearce rose above the crowd to try and put the Owls up with one of his signature headers, but a Tormenta defender was able to get a head to it and keep it out of goal.
Luis Gil put on a show in the 19th minute, dribbling in between the split legs of a Tormenta defender to set up a one-on-one meeting with TJ Bush in goal, forcing the Tormenta ‘keeper to make a tight save.
The Owls received an early advantage in the 22nd minute, when Owen Green was given a straight red card after a takedown on Noe Meza, putting the home side up a man.
The foul set up a free kick that bounced around the box off of several Owls’ feet before Conor Doyle came through with a solid second effort and was able to blast a low strike into the back corner of the net to give Omaha the early lead. It was the captain’s second goal for the club and the first-ever in league play.
“What a great goal,” Union Omaha Head Coach Jay Mims said. “He’s had that chance and it’s been deflected before or just missed, so for Conor to get his goal, I think we’re going to see more to come here.”
“In a game like this, it was nice to be able to step up and put one in,” Doyle said.
Ryen Jiba made a brilliant save of his own in the 29th minute to preserve the team’s lead, using a header to deflect a shot from Fuad Adeniyi that was otherwise in the back of the net.
Always an aerial threat, Scearce forced another close save from Bush in the 43rd minute. Following the attempt, Kevin Piedrahita made a diving pounce to deny a fiery shot from Gabriel Cabral and keep Tormenta off the scoresheet. Omaha went into the half still clutching its 1-0 lead and having never lost when leading at the break.
Out of the half, Scearce earned the first caution for the Owls in the 50th minute after a late tackle.
A close call gave the visitors a penalty kick to try and level the score. Team-leading scorer Kazaiah Sterling stepped forward to take the shot, slotting it past Piedrahita to bring South Georgia even in the 53rd minute.
Continuing the trend of headed attempts, Luis Gil leaped up and nearly put the Owls back up with one of his own.
Daltyn Knutson earned Omaha’s second yellow card in the 75th minute. Soon after, substitute Alex Bruce jumped in with an immediate impact, attempting a header from a Shaft Brewer Jr. cross that coasted over the crossbar.
Bush made another tricky save to prevent Ricky Rivera from putting the Owls up late in stoppage time, and that was all that would do on the night in front of the crowd over 4,000 strong.
With the draw, Omaha officially extends its title-defending quest into the postseason, with a potential hosting position still in play.
“What an accomplishment, three years in a row,” Mims said. “Super proud of the club and for the team to get into the playoffs. We knew it would be a challenge this year with a ton of new players and a ton of rookies and kind of turning over the roster last year. For us to qualify for the playoffs, we’re super happy about that.”
The Owls can boost their chances to host next week when they close out the regular season against Central Valley Fuego FC at 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 15 for Fan Appreciation Night.
“There’s a lot of things we can learn from and take from over the last two or three weeks, so hopefully we can get there in the next week or two and take that into the playoffs.” – Conor Doyle
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.