PAPILLION, Neb. – In the latest battle of the birds, presented by XCancer, Union Omaha took flight early against Forward Madison, but could only finish with another draw in their fight to stay in first.
The two teams will each take a point away to their respective scraps in the standings, with a crowded table seeing both sides level with multiple teams coming into this Friday night at Werner Park. After a win each in their first two meetings this season, this draw will leave a rubber match to be contested in early August.
“A very tough team, they’ve got good players, they press hard, and obviously it’s the third time we’ve played against them. They know how we play, so it’s always hard to get around them and score goals around them,” said Damià Viader of his opponents tonight.
A harbinger of the first goal came only a couple minutes in, when Elma NFor was sent in on goal from the left. His shot was saved but fell to Greg Hurst, whose own attempt required a clearance off the line to prevent a disastrous opening for the Flamingos.
In the 11th minute, Devin Boyce was put through with a wonderful whipped assist by Connor Doyle from the far edge of the center circle. Boyce latched onto it, took a touch to bring himself into position, and coolly slotted it into the corner from just inside the 18-yard box. It was a pinpoint enough finish to find a hole in the net and roll right through, though Boyce may want to believe his shot was just that powerful.
Omaha continued to threaten through their verticality, pressuring Madison’s defenders with direct play to break their lines as well as some aggressive pressing when the Flamingos attempted to build out of the back.
“I thought we did a really good job in the first half. It was one-way traffic, and it was only going towards their goal, and we got the goal midway through the half,” said Head Coach Jay Mims, who also spoke highly of their effort level early on.
The second half was a different story, with the Owls unable to keep their momentum. Despite a couple more chances on net for them, it was the Flamingos who scored next. After a wild Omaha back pass from midfield, Forward Madison worked a one-two from the corner kick to deliver a floated cross into the mixer. Connor Tobin got his head to it right in front of goal, bouncing it past a sprawling Piedrahita for the equalizer.
Tobin immediately contributed on the other end as well, parrying away a one-on-one chance for Hurst with a sliding tackle. Despite plenty of these opportunities for Los Búhos to run at goal, including a spark from Ethan Vanacore-Decker off the bench, only the Boyce chance early on amounted to anything.
Mims attested to that. “I don’t know if we got a little bit tired, got a little bit disjointed… it’s disappointing. I don’t think they had much in the first half, they didn’t have much in the second half, and then they got that goal that got them in it a little bit. I thought we got the game going again, but we just didn’t look in sync the last 25, 30 yards of the field.”
He attributed some of that to the time off last week. “Sometimes that can happen. You take two weeks off, that’s the hardest thing to get back is movement in front of goal and patterns. Now that we’ve had a game and have some tape, we’ll get back at it and have a chance to do it next weekend.”
Three teams came into this week stuck on 22 points at the top of the standings. With only a point from this match, Omaha can’t expect to stay in first by the end of Week 15. Either Greenville Triumph or Chattanooga Red Wolves can reach the summit of USL League One with an authoritative win on Saturday.
Union Omaha will venture west next week, taking on a FC Tucson team stuck in neutral so far this season. The match down in Arizona will take place on Saturday, July 24 at 9:00 p.m. CT.
The next home match for Los Búhos is on Saturday, July 31 at 7 pm CT against North Texas SC. The club will be honoring the Nebraska high school soccer state champions through the Night of Champions celebration.
Union Omaha vs Forward Madison
Werner Park (Papillion, NE)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Union Omaha 1 0 1
Forward Madison 0 1 1
OMA: Devin Boyle 11’
MAD: Connor Tobin 67’
OMA: Elma NFor (Yellow Card) 31’
MAD: Jiro Barriga Toyama (Yellow Card) 32’, Derek Gebhard (Yellow Card) 60’, Gustavo Fernandes (Yellow Card) 74’
Shots (on goal): OMA: 12 (4); MAD: 6 (3)
Saves: OMA: Kevin Piedrahita – 2; MAD: Phil Breno – 2
Possession: OMA 47.9% – MAD 52.1%
Fouls: OMA 13; MAD 13
Corner Kicks: OMA 4; MAD 3
OMA: GK, Piedrahita; D, Viader; D, Knutson; D, Crull; D, Sousa; M, Otieno (Murphy 57’); M, Doyle; M, Alihodžić; M, Boyce (Vanacore-Decker 81’); F, Hurst; F, N’For (Panchot 78’)
MAD: GK, Breno; D, Jiro; D, Tobin; D, Fernandes; D, Diaz; M, Molloy; M, Enriquez (Fuson 80’); M, Leonard; F, Gebhard (Allen 76’); F, Keegan; F, Sukow (Gomez 66’)
All game stats are unofficial.