PAPILLION, Neb. – Union Omaha went into tonight without a win from a losing position this season. That seems hard to believe after a comprehensive victory against Fort Lauderdale CF, where an early goal for the visitors was quickly offset by an offensive onslaught from the Owls.
After conceding a 24th minute opener far too easily, Evan Conway and Greg Hurst proceeded to play a game of HORSE, both slotting shots home from the right edge of the 6-yard box to give Omaha the lead going into the half. From there, they poured it on with two more and a crackdown on defense to cruise to victory.
Omaha came out of the gates with purpose, and through 20 minutes or so had wrested control of the match, even taking a slight lead in possession. Fort Lauderdale, though, punched them in the mouth through sheer verticality. A long ball down the left flank found Mitchell Curry, who proceeded to put Illal Osumanu in the spin cycle with his footwork. From there, his cross set up Shaan Hundal with the easiest goal of his lifetime after completely losing his marker in Daltyn Knutson.
“We’ve definitely had better starts to the game this year,” Head Coach Jay Mims said post-match, with a wry smile. “We were a little bit flat, and it was kind of one of those weird mid-week games. The first 10 or 15 minutes was tough.”
The Owls simply took a few minutes to compose themselves before imposing their will once more. Fort Lauderdale is a team that prefers to play out of the back, direct goal aside, but had massive struggles with composure against Union Omaha’s pressing. Throughout the match they were giving the ball away in bad spots, or struggling to clear their lines when Omaha threatened.
It was typically direct play that netted the equalizer, though. Devin Boyce, coming off three assists in South Georgia, flipped the switches on his afterburners to plow straight through the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s midfield. He slid it to Greg Hurst next, who tiptoed along the edge of the box before the ball found Evan Conway, and in his current form, that was all he needed was a touch in the box. He now has a goal in all four matches against the Floridians in his career.
Greg Hurst then saw that and decided it looked like fun as well. Fort Lauderdale hardly cleared a ball crossed into the box, and lovely one-touch and two-touch passing worked it to Hurst on the right, who lifted it into the roof of the net to give Union Omaha the 2-1 advantage.
Coach Mims summed up the turnaround nicely: “You kind of have two options at that point [of being down a goal]. You can either feel sorry for yourself, lose your confidence, and have to be in a fight the whole game, or you say ‘Come on, let’s go and kick someone’s ass, and let’s get after it.’ And our guys chose option two.”
The match effectively ended once option two yielded that many goals, but the scoring did not. Tobias Otieno’s lung-busting run down the right flank was made well worth it when Fort Lauderdale defender Ethan Hardin knocked it down for Devin Boyce like a Union Omaha sleeper agent. Boyce’s rocket into the far corner made it 3-1. Greg Hurst would make it 4 with a defender glued to his shoulder on a textbook counter off a corner kick. Hurst's goal not only put the match out of reach but also gave the Owls back-to-back four goal matches. From there began the substitutions to rest players for the weekend ahead. Omaha would create more great chances while completely shutting their Floridian foes down, but apparently four goals was enough.
“That was awesome to watch. What a response from our guys. Incredible response,” said Coach Mims. “For us to be down and then come back and hit them with four goals? So happy.”
This win means that Union Omaha will clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win on Saturday against Greenville Triumph. With a game in hand still thanks to their postponed match against Forward Madison, they’re also now 4 points up on Chattanooga at the summit of USL League One. Fort Lauderdale will stay 11th in the table, with their playoff hopes dimming by the matchday on this five-match winless streak.
The Owls are roosting in Omaha for a while yet. For the next four matches, they’ll remain in Werner Park, taking them through to a season finale down in Texas. They have a quick turnaround to another match mere days away, though, as next on the agenda is a face-off against Greenville Triumph. This match will be on Saturday, October 9th, at 6:00 PM CDT.
Union Omaha vs Fort Lauderdale CF
Werner Park (Papillion, NE)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Union Omaha 2 2 4
Fort Lauderdale CF 1 0 1
OMA: Evan Conway 35’, Greg Hurst 43’, 58’, Devin Boyce 49’
FTL: Shaan Hundal 24’
OMA: Conor Doyle (Yellow Card) 70’
Shots (on goal): OMA: 21 (9); FTL: 11 (3)
Saves: OMA: Kevin Piedrahita – 2; FTL: Drake Callender – 5
Possession: OMA 51.0% – FTL 49.0%
Fouls: OMA 8; FTL 9
Corner Kicks: OMA 7; FTL 5
OMA: GK, Piedrahita; D, Viader (Panchot 85’); D, Osumanu; D, Knutson; D, Sousa (Malone 60’); M, Scearce; M, Otieno; M, Doyle; M, Boyce (Alihodžić, 73’); F, Conway (Galvan 74’); F, Hurst (Firmino 85’)
FTL: GK, Callender; D, Mendez; D, E. Hardin; D, Neville; D, Allen; M, Azcona (D. Hardin 79’); M, Caputo; M, Acosta (Najib 61’); F, Beckham (Evans 61’); F, Hundal (Valencia 79’); F, Curry
All game stats are unofficial.