PAPILLION, Neb. – It took a year to get this closure, but Union Omaha lifted the USL League One trophy in front of an absolutely raucous home crowd; which set a new USL League 1 Final attendance record.
Before the match, Devin Boyce spoke about how Omaha needed to refocus for this season. “[Last season] left a bitter taste in our mouth, and from the jump we just knew that we needed to come together and put results together from the beginning.”
They did just that, and they couldn’t have finished with a better pair of results either.
Evan Conway got the Owls off to another soaring start, Greg Hurst doubled it up just before halftime, and from there Union Omaha showed immense grit to see off a season where they were best nearly wire-to-wire.
Omaha opened this match in a similar fashion to their semifinal dismantling of FC Tucson, with a head of steam and a load of pressure on Greenville’s goal. It paid off after only seven minutes. Abdi Mohamed was dispossessed at the center circle, indicative of the Owls’ swarming pressure to start, and Damià Viader drove all the way to the byline to chip in a lovely cross. Evan Conway had enough space at the back post to land a Cessna, and used it to nod home his 10th goal since the start of October.
Union Omaha has never lost after scoring first, and they kept the heat on for a good while. In fact, Greenville didn’t get a single shot in until almost 20 minutes into the match. The Triumph did settle in after that, going into the break with a 60-40 possession advantage. Still, top scorer Marios Lomis was left isolated up top in the 3-5-2 they trotted out to try and counter Union Omaha’s typical 4-4-2, and the few shots they mustered hardly troubled Rashid Nuhu in net.
That would be one thing if they went into the second half down a goal. Instead, Greg Hurst drove from midfield off an errant pass, then got into the box and redirected a scuffed Devon Boyce shot on goal. Bar-down. 2-0.
There was little rhythm to the second half as both clubs dug in their heels and upped the competitive spirits… meaning, lots of fouls and arguments. At one point, three players were yellow carded in the span of about four minutes. What it did, though, was milk the clock, still with hardly any kind of threat to Omaha’s goal.
Of course, that was too simple. Evan Conway decided to take an early shower, being shown a second yellow card in the 77th. After an accumulation of challenges, it was a matter of time before he made his way to the sideline, under Coach Mims’ accord or otherwise. That left Omaha down a man for the final moments of the match, when Greenville was just starting to heat up.
Really, the season was only ever going to end on the back of the Owls’ defensive prowess, with their cozy confines at Werner Park only accentuating their compact shape on defense.
A pair of Greenville subs nearly linked up on a goal just a minute after coming on, but Alex Morrell’s point-blank header flashed wide. Only one shot of Greenville’s was on target as the match headed into stoppage time, though they then gave Nuhu something to do with a falling save off a corner that was dangerously close to crossing the goal line.
The best chance late, though, fell to Tobias Otieno. He latched onto a throw-in looped over several Greenville players, ran into a nearly vacant box, and took his time to pick his spot in the far corner. That third goal would effortlessly put this match, this season, and the what-ifs of 2020 all to bed.
All respect to Greenville, who have reached the finals in all three seasons of USL League One. This was a match between, hands down, the two best teams in the league, in a rivalry that has been tight since the beginning. But this year, it’s the Owls flying high.
They had the league’s best defense. They had the most goals in the league, with the best strike partnership. Defender of the Year (and Finals MVP). Coach of the Year. Five players on the two All-League teams. This was a complete squad, front to back. And with a 9-1 score over their two playoff matches, this was a complete championship run.
Union Omaha vs Greenville Triumph
Werner Park (Papillion, NE)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Union Omaha 2 1 3
Greenville Triumph 0 0 0
OMA: Evan Conway 7’, Greg Hurst 43’, Tobias Otieno 90+2’
OMA: Evan Conway (Yellow Card) 11’ and (Red Card) 77’, Illal Osumanu (Yellow Card) 62’, Damià Viader (Yellow Card) 63’
GRE: Max Hemmings (Yellow Card) 65’, Evan Lee (Yellow Card) 72’
Shots (on goal): OMA: 15 (4); GRE: 13 (2)
Saves: OMA: Rashid Nuhu – 2; GRE: Paul Christensen – 1
Possession: OMA 35.3% – GRE 64.7%
Fouls: OMA 16; GRE 4
Corner Kicks: OMA 4; GRE 3
Attendance: 5,221 (USL League 1 Final Record)
OMA: GK, Nuhu; D, Crull; D, Knutson; D, Osumanu; D, Sousa (Otieno 86’); M, Doyle; M, Scearce; M, Viader; M, Boyce (Alihodžić 90’); F, Conway; F, Hurst
GRE: GK, Christensen; D, Lee; D, Hemmings; D, Fricke; M, Ibarra (Morrell 82’); M, Pilato; M, Walker; M, Polak; M, Mohamed (Booth 68’); F, Gavilanes (Brown 82’); F, Lomis (McLean 56’)
All game stats are unofficial.