Union Omaha looked to prove that last year’s deep run in the US Open Cup wasn’t an exception and after 90 minutes, the Owls proved victorious over USL Championship club El Paso Locomotive, winning the Second Round match with a final score of 2-0.
The fans that made their way into Morrison Stadium on the campus of Creighton University were prepared for the evening, showing up in several layers. At the time of the opening kickoff, temperatures were in the mid-40s and wind gusts were averaging close to 20 mph. Once the opening whistle sounded, weather stopped being a concern and the battle for victory commenced.
Before the match started, El Paso Locomotive announced they would have upwards of 12 players making their US Open Cup debut. Brian Clarhaut, the Locomotive Head Coach, was also making his debut. Of the 12 players eligible for making their debuts, 8 actually took the field in the contest. Despite Union Omaha Head Coach Dominic Casciato making his US Open Cup debut, he opted for a lineup full of veteran players with plenty of experience in the tournament.
From the opening whistle, Union Omaha was displaying a level of composure fans didn’t see in their first league match. El Paso Locomotive pushed high, spread their wingers high on the Union Omaha backline, and looked to capitalize on forcing an errant pass. Union Omaha seemed to counter that effort by exposing the half spaces and limiting touches to move the ball quickly. Both sides did a good job of swiftly moving the ball forward while in possession. While the battles continued, the scoreline remained 0-0 heading into the break.
???? to business as usual last night!— Union Omaha (@Union_Omaha) April 6, 2023
El Búfalo and Superman netted our first goals of the 2023 @opencup campaign last night to punch our ticket into the 3rd round ????#OneMeansAll | #OMAvELP pic.twitter.com/XIx3U5FKeL
“I think we had a really clear identity and I think in our first game of the season, against Forward Madison, we came away from that identity,” Union Omaha Head Coach Dominic Casciato said. “If we stay true to who we are, I think we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The second half continued with a lot of the same patterns from the first half, but the ingredient of individual duels became an increasing source of progress as challenges became rougher and successful dribbles helped gain each and every valuable inch toward the opposition’s goal. Within 15 minutes of action after halftime, that notion led to the first goal of the evening.
In the 58th minute, Union Omaha set up for a corner kick. After a series of blocked shots, Union Omaha forward Steevan Dos Santos was able to connect with center back Junior Palacios for the opening goal. It seemed like a mad scramble, but the Owls were able to take advantage of the moment and take the lead.
“Yeah, this week we had been going over set pieces,” Union Omaha defender Junior Palacios said. “We had been honing in on that and I was just anticipating the ball in the right space. It fell to me and I took the opportunity to score.”
As the second half continued on, the tackling grew rougher and rougher. Within a span of 15 minutes, three yellow cards were handed out and that number could’ve been higher, if not for the occasional restraint from the head referee.
Union Omaha’s insurance policy came in the 75th minute when second-half substitute Joe Brito sent a beautiful cross into the box and served it on a platter for Steevan Dos Santos to score the goal. Dos Santos finished the match with a goal and an assist.
The victory was Union Omaha’s first of the calendar year and first ever for new Head Coach Dominic Casciato, who spoke to the importance of the victory. “It feels great,” Casciato said. “I think we’ve got the best people in terms of players and the staff at this football club and that showed tonight.” When asked about his own connection to El Paso Locomotive, serving as an assistant coach for the club last season, Casciato didn’t waste any time in complimenting the Locomotive. “I love El Paso,” Casciato said. “El Paso was a special place to me.”
Both Union Omaha and El Paso Locomotive return to league action this weekend, as Union Omaha travels to Central Valley Fuego for a USL League One match and El Paso Locomotive hosts Orange County SC in their USL Championship matchup.