Omaha’s playoff seed to be determined after other matches
PAPILLION, Neb. (October 15, 2022) – Despite outshooting Central Valley Fuego FC with some quality chances, Union Omaha fell 2-0 in its regular season finale.
The Owls came into the night after clinching their spot in the USL League One Playoffs presented by Hisense over the weekend with another point but still desperate to turn their form around and head into the postseason with some momentum. To do so, they would have to bookend their home slate with a pair of wins against Central Valley, a team trying to play spoiler in the Owls’ home closer after being eliminated from playoff contention in its inaugural season.
Omaha made quick work out the gate, pressing heavily in their opponent’s half to try and cause some discomfort. The attack nearly resulted in a fatal Fuego miscue, as goalkeeper Mitchell North was forced to make a bad pass that Conor Doyle intercepted and took for the Owls’ first shot on goal in the 7th minute.
The next chance followed not too long after, with fellow midfielder JP Scearce getting his foot on a long strike.
The first card of the match was issued to Ricky Rivera in the 23rd minute. Fuego followed it up with one of their own in the 33rd minute.
Omaha’s defense flexed its muscles in the 38th minute, with Kevin Piedrahita making a brilliant close-range save against a strong headed attempt from Jose Villarreal and Ryen Jiba recording the goal-line clearance to keep the game scoreless.
Jordan Chavez earned the second yellow card for the visitors shortly before the half came to a close. The free kick set up a dangerously close chance for Corey Hertzog to try and poke it in goal, but the angle was too tight to make anything happen.
The Fuego physicality continued in the waning minutes of the first half with Villarreal recording Central Valley’s third booking. With not much else going in stoppage time, the teams headed back to the locker rooms still deadlocked.
Piedrahita came up with another clutch save in the 58th minute to keep the Fuego offense silent, but the visitors refused to go down without a fight. A gutsy run from Cherif Dieye in the 61st minute set up a one-on-one meeting with Piedrahita, with the latter unable to stop the chip shot in goal. It was one of the only times the Owls have trailed at home all season and the first goal allowed to Fuego in the series.
The goal scorer earned a caution of his own in the 74th minute after a rough foul on Ryen Jiba, which was soon followed with two more on Christian Chaney and William Gillingham to make six total.
Daltyn Knutson put another close look on frame in the final minutes, taking free kick from about ten yards outside the box that North was able to grab. The Owls battled hard in the ten minutes of stoppage time to try and create some more opportunity, but ultimately Central Valley was able to take advantage of a light backfield and double its lead in the final minute with a goal from Christian Chaney.
“There was no rhythm, no flow to the game,” Union Omaha Head Coach Jay Mims said. “We couldn’t get anything going … Probably one of the few times all year we didn’t have energy or bite or commitment, and it didn’t look like us.”
Although the Owls were unable to complete the season sweep of Central Valley, their goal of repeating as USL League One Champions is still alive. Omaha will find out its seeding and opponent later tonight following the conclusion of other League One games. The Owls will play in next weekend’s quarterfinals, with official date, time, and location to be decided. Omaha could finish anywhere from 4th to 6th place, with a 4th place seed ensuring a hosting spot next weekend.
“We made the playoffs, and we still have a week to figure things out. The playoffs are extra motivation. Everyone has to be really locked in,” Piedrahita said. “Next weekend is going to be a battle.”
“Three games to win a championship, and it starts next week,” Mims said. “Whether it’s home or away, it’s our job to prepare and do it. At the end of the day, only one team is going to be happy in three weeks’ time … so our team has to turn it around and game-by-game see if we can do it.”
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.