PAPILLION, Neb. – Union Omaha’s home finale had fans leaving happy as the Owls clinched the top spot in this regular season and the playoffs to come.
A scoreless yet eventful first half begat late fireworks, with a quickfire double sending this game from 0 to 100 in a hurry. In a remarkably even match, that blink-and-you-miss-it salvo was all it took for Los Búhos to win.
Union Omaha dictated the tempo from the outset. Many of their early chances came on set-pieces, with a handful of corners and free kicks just within the first ten minutes. Both clubs, however, were amped up for the match without letting things get too sloppy through brute physicality… even if that energy didn’t translate into an offensive explosion.
This, despite a tactical tweak on Coach Mims’ part, pushing Damià Viader up to the midfield and giving Jacob Crull his first start at left-back since last season. The change sought to harness Viader’s creative energy while solidifying a backline against red-hot Richmond with Crull, usually a center back. Crull may have also appreciated having more of a license to get forward than normal, of course.
Just because there weren’t any goals in the first half didn’t mean there weren’t chances. Indeed, both teams had a point in which a star player felt they had been shafted.
Merely three minutes in, Viader drove into the box and earned himself a shove in the back from Richmond. He was apoplectic about the no-call, as was Kickers striker Emiliano Terzaghi when he had a free header cleared off the doorstep (via the crossbar!). Terzaghi felt it had crossed the line for his record 18th goal of the season, but like Viader, no dice.
The second verse was much of the same as the first. There was a good energy to the match, but whichever team was off the ball won out time and time again, constricting space and restricting most entries into their respective 18-yard boxes.
Which is why it was all too predictable when Omaha’s breakthrough came from a long-range strike. Evan Conway drew a foul about 25 yards away, right in the center of the pitch. Up stepped Tobias Otieno, who was subbed on just 15 minutes into the match because of an injury to Devin Boyce. He grabbed the ball immediately after the foul, took a cool run-up, and made his rocket into the left corner look downright casual.
A reeling Richmond gave up the ghost immediately afterwards. Omaha recycled possession back to Daltyn Knutson, who fired a gorgeous curling ball over the top of the entire Kickers squad. Greg Hurst let it bounce twice before finally taking it off the volley and slotting it past Akira Fitzgerald for the dagger. Much like in their midweek loss, it was a pair of rapid-fire goals that proved the difference in Werner Park.
That win clinches both the top spot in the playoffs, and eternal bragging rights in being the best team in the 2021 regular season table. Richmond Kickers, meanwhile, see their hot streak come to an end at five wins, and will need a result next weekend to book their ticket to the playoffs.
Union Omaha has one match left in the regular season, and it would take a trek to see it in person. With their home slate finished until playoffs, the Owls will fly south to finish their initial slate against North Texas SC, who will be scrapping to clinch a playoff spot themselves. The regular season capper will be at 7:30 PM CDT, on Saturday, October 30th. Then the Owls have earned a bye for the first round of the playoffs and will host a home playoff match at Werner Park on November 13th at 4pm.
Union Omaha vs Richmond Kickers
Werner Park (Papillion, NE)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Union Omaha 0 2 2
Richmond Kickers 0 0 0
OMA: Tobias Otieno 85’, Greg Hurst 88’
OMA: Greg Hurst (Yellow Card) 34’, Ferrety Sousa (Yellow Card) 90’, Tobias Otieno (Yellow Card) 90+4’
RIC: Matthew Bolduc (Yellow Card) 30’, Jonathan Bolanos (Yellow Card) 77’, Zacarias Moran (Yellow Card) 84’
Shots (on goal): OMA: 12 (4); RIC: 12 (2)
Saves: OMA: Rashid Nuhu – 1; RIC: Akira Fitzgerald – 2
Possession: OMA 57.2% – RIC 42.8%
Fouls: OMA 11; RIC 13
Corner Kicks: OMA #; RIC #
OMA: GK, Nuhu; D, Crull; D, Osumanu; D, Knutson; D, Sousa (Alihodžić 90+1’); M, Viader; M, Doyle; M, Scearce; M, Boyce (Otieno 16’); F, Conway (Malone 87’); F, Hurst
RIC: GK, Fitzgerald; D, Cole; D, Magalhāes; D, Crisler; D, Calvo; M, Vinyals; M, Moran; M, Bolduc (Pavone 78’); F, Bolanos (Anderson 78’); F, Terzaghi (Gonzalez 90+1’); F, Bryant
All game stats are unofficial.