Former All-League One Selection Joe Gallardo scores first goal for Omaha
OMAHA, Neb. (April 15, 2023) – Omaha’s late comeback effort fell just short as the Owls suffered their first defeat of the season, falling 2-1 to North Carolina FC Saturday.
The Owls came into Saturday looking to stay unbeaten in league play and against North Carolina, a 3-0-2 all-time series record against the visitors. The clubs drew twice in Cary last season, while Omaha unleashed a 4-1 win in the lone contest at Werner Park.
Despite finishing last in the League One standings the previous two seasons, North Carolina made several noteworthy signings in the offseason to increase their playoff odds for 2023, recording a win and draw in its two previous league matchups.
Omaha faced some immediate adversity, with North Carolina being awarded an early penalty, with Rafa Mentzingen converting to give the visitors the early lead in the 3rd minute.
“Disappointing to start the game in the way we started it. I think we knew exactly how they were going to press us,” Union Omaha Head Coach Dominic Casciato said. “Just needed to start the game in a better fashion. You can’t give anyone in this league a one-goal head start in the first minute.”
Luis Gil recorded the first on-target shot of the match for the Owls, forcing Nicholas Holliday to make the save in the 16th minute after a cross from Joe Brito.
Gil threatened again in the 22nd minute, this time with a header, prompting a tough goal line stand from a Carolina defender after Holliday left an open goal.
Despite the Owls holding nearly 75% possession in the first half and peppering the goal with solid looks, Luis Perez was able to slip another goal in for North Carolina off an unlucky defensive deflection. The 2-0 scoreline marked the first time the Owls have trailed all season.
The offense looked to start clicking again to start the second half, with Joe Gallardo ripping a strong shot that hit the crossbar in the 53rd minute, just narrowly missing to put Omaha on the scoreboard.
The Owls sparked a comeback rally in the 84th minute, when Gallardo slammed a free kick into the back of the net of a Holliday tip. The goal was the first of the season for former All-League First Teamer Gallardo, who scored 6 goals in his last season in League One.
Omaha had back-to-back corner kicks in the last minute of stoppage time to try and snag a late draw result but ultimately came up empty-handed as the whistles blew on the 2-1 defeat.
“With those two early goals, I feel like it got tough for us, but I feel like this is just a turning point for us,” Gallardo said.
“Disappointed but we go again,” Casciato said. “It’s our first taste of defeat now, so it’s about how we respond … Today, we let ourselves down with the way we started the game, but good lesson learned from that and we’ll come back stronger.”
The Owls will look to bounce back as they hit the road next week to take on first-place Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, April 19. That match will be followed the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, where Omaha will travel to MLS newcomer St. Louis City SC on Tuesday, April 25 before returning home to Werner Park in league play to host Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC for Pups at the Pitch 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 Dominic Casciato on the field.