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PREVIEW: UNION OMAHA vs. FORWARD MADISON FC

By Will Clarke, 08/05/21, 3:45PM CDT

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PAPILLION, Neb - Both sides have different aims at this point in the season, but three points here would be crucial regardless. Union Omaha has held the top spot since Matchday 7, but with only two points separating them from Chattanooga Red Wolves, they’ll be looking to scrape out three points here and carve out a larger buffer in the table from those below. Forward Madison, meanwhile, is embroiled in an epic battle that stretches well above and below the cutoff line for playoffs. They possess at least a game in hand on most teams above them in that race, but one point and two wins’ tiebreaker are what separates them in ninth from South Georgia Tormenta FC in fourth. They’ll have to improve a 1-1-5 record away from home to get there, though.

DRAWING A BLANK
While these teams may have hoped to rev their engines up in the dog days of summer, they’ve instead been stuck in neutral. Both teams exited July with three draws out of four matches, and while their places in the standings didn’t shift too drastically, they can rue some missed opportunities to put themselves in far better positions as they segue into the second half of the season. Union Omaha has done enough to stay atop the table right now despite three straight deadlocks, yet that 91st minute equalizer from Chattanooga Red Wolves’ Marky Hernandez sticks out as a real blow. The gap from first to second in the table could be five points rather than two had they clung on there. They get no sympathy from the Flamingos, though – Forward Madison relinquished a lead in the 100th minute against Fort Lauderdale CF a couple weeks ago.

ZEROING IN ON UNION OMAHA
A major facet of Union Omaha’s identity has been their rock-solid defense. Last season, they had the third-best record in League One in preventing goals, allowing only 15 in 16 matches. This season has seen them one-up that, topping the league with 11 let in through 14 fixtures. It’s nitpicking to focus too much on any deficiencies there… but four straight matches without a clean sheet can feel like a bit of a let-off. Their last three draws, all 1-1, have seen the Owls unable to hold initial leads, costing them that far more comfortable standing on the League One summit. With Greg Hurst leading the line and Damià Viader fashioning chances all over the pitch, though, performances like their 2-1 win over FC Tucson (where the 1 given up was an own goal) are always a good bet.

SERIES HISTORY
This match will be a true rubber match between the clubs for the 2021 season, with the record going into this fourth and final regular season faceoff standing at 1-1-1. In their first matchup, Forward Madison handed Omaha their only loss of the season, a 1-0 defeat in Madison back in late May. Los Búhos struck back just a week and a half later with a 2-1 victory at the same locale, and the most recent match just last month ended with a goal apiece. With both matches last season ending in draws as well, this is historically a hotly contested series. 

ABOUT FORWARD MADISON
The Flamingos have thus far had a solid if unspectacular season. They were winless in July, with a 4-1 loss to North Texas SC followed by three straight 1-1 draws, including the one against the Owls. They currently have the fewest goals scored in the league, with 16 goals in 14 matches, but have kept it relatively tight in the back with 17 goals allowed. While they sit ninth in the table now, fourth through ninth are separated by a single point, making for an intense playoff hunt at the midway point in the season. 

It will be an E-sports Night theme for this match, with local non-profit Prairie STEM hosting a table display and Local Legends providing a gaming truck featuring games such as Rocket League and FIFA.

Date: Saturday, August 7, 2021  
Location: Werner Park 12356 Ballpark Way, Papillion, NE 68046
Opponent: Forward Madison SC
Kick Off Time:  7 p.m. CT
TV: ESPN+
Presenting Partner: Buildertrend 
Theme: E-sports Night
E-sports Night will feature Local Legends providing a gaming truck featuring games such as Rocket League and FIFA and local non-profit Prairie STEM will host a table display.