Union Omaha claimed its first USL League One title on Saturday night after a 3-0 victory against Greenville Triumph SC before a crowd of 5,521 fans at Werner Park. | Photo courtesy Union Omaha
PAPILLION, Neb. – Chalk one up for Los Buhos.
A year after seeing their title dreams dashed in the build-up to the game, Union Omaha claimed the 2021 USL League One Final on Saturday evening at Werner Park with a 3-0 victory against Greenville Triumph SC before a League One Final record crowd of 5,521.
The night was a memorable one for Head Coach Jay Mims, his Union players and most of the fans on hand. Here are three things that made the difference on the night.
Prior to this season, no teammates had registered double-digit goals for the same team in the same season in League One’s short history. When Union Omaha’s Greg Hurst and Evan Conway did so, it marked the major step forward from Year 1 to Year 2 for the side that was a title contender a year ago primarily because of its defensive solidity.
It also put a spotlight on the two players coming into Saturday’s game against a Greenville defense that has recorded six consecutive shutouts coming in, but on their home turf both players produced as Omaha grabbed control of the game early and took a two-goal halftime lead. Hurst’s finish right before halftime was a beautiful instinctive finish, and while Conway put his side under pressure late after earning his second yellow card – which resulted in a major onslaught of pressure from Greenville late – the work they’d already done ended up being key to the final result.
Even before Omaha was reduced to 10 men with 12 minutes remaining, Greenville Triumph SC had the majority of possession and was winning a lot of the battles for possession when they arose. The key problem the visitors weren’t able to solve over the opening five-sixths of the game, however, was how to find a way through the Union midfield and defense in away that would produce chances.
Omaha might have found itself on the short end of most statistical categories, but when it came to breaking up play and guiding the game into spaces that could nullify Triumph SC’s strength’s, los Buhos remained on top. Defender Ferrety Sousa led outfield players with 13 recoveries, while both he and League One Final MVP Damia Viader recorded a game-high four interceptions apiece. That resulted in Greenville recording only five shots – and one shot on target – in the opening 75 minutes.
Conway’s red card threatened to upend the game completely for a moment, but while Omaha had taken its chances in the first half to build its lead, Triumph SC just couldn’t find the breakthrough in what was almost sustained pressure in the final 10 minutes and stoppage time. The visitors registered eight of their 13 shots overall after Conway’s dismissal, and could have made a serious game of it had Alex Morrell’s header with seven minutes to go found the net instead of sliding wide of the left post after a fine cross from the right.
There will likely be some debate as to whether or not Andrew Booth’s towering header in the first minute of stoppage time should have been ruled a goal – Omaha’s Rashid Nuhu got down to make the save on the goal line, although there was a suspicion the ball had crossed the line. Overall, though, it just didn’t seem to be Greenville’s night as the visitors were dethroned as reigning title holders.