Union Omaha impressed as a first-year club in 2020, and could have the league's toughest defense in 2021 / Photo courtesy Union Omaha
It was hard not to be impressed by what Union Omaha did as a first-year club in 2020, putting together an excellent season to finish second in the League One table. Look for this squad, which already works well together as a unit, to gel even further in Year Two under Head Coach Jay Mims. Los Búhos have already brought back all their core starters from a solid defense that allowed only 15 goals in 16 matches in 2020.
Goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu makes an excellent anchor behind Mims’ seemingly-preferred back four of Damia Viader, Daltyn Knutson, Illal Osumanu and Ferrety Sousa. Midfielder Tobias Otieno - who joined midway through the 2020 season and provided important cover for the back line to help the team overcome a slump in form - returns as well. Another year playing together and building on its already-strong chemistry, Omaha has great potential to be the league’s strongest defensive side in 2021.
In 2020, Chattanooga’s offense ranked third in goals per game with 1.4, just behind North Texas SC (1.69) and title-winners Greenville (1.5). Though the Red Wolves’ offseason additions have mostly been midfielders, those creators should help out returning forwards Marky Hernandez and Ronaldo Pineda.
Former Acenso MX and USL Championship midfielder Jose Carerra Garcia will bring real quality to the Chattanooga midfield and drive the creation of scoring opportunities for the Red Wolves’ talented front line. Though unproven at the professional level, new signing Jackson Dietrich is an intriguing prospect up top, while fellow incoming young players Jimmie Villalobos and Josue Espana add even more attacking ability to a midfield corps that features two established League One players in Ualefi and Amirgy Pineda. 2020 All-League selection Ricky Ruiz does a little bit of everything on the left flank, defending well and getting forward effectively.
The apparent desire of Head Coach Jimmy Obleda and GM and President Sean McDaniel to stockpile young creators and goal scorers suggests the Red Wolves are looking to play exciting soccer in 2021, and it looks like they have the firepower to do so.