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Hailstorm lament lack of “fight and effort” in Open Cup loss at Union Omaha

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OMAHA – Union Omaha hosted Northern Colorado Hailstorm on Wednesday night. It was the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32. They were two of just eleven non-MLS teams left in the competition. It was one of just three matches in the round between non-MLS teams. Both teams were coming off weekend losses in league play. One USL League One team was off to the Round of 16. The other was turning into a pumpkin.

Hailstorm learn lessons in 2-0 Open Cup loss at Union Omaha

John Scearce appeared to give the home side the lead with a header on a free kick 21 minutes into the game but it was ruled offside. Alex Touche had a great look at goal with just the keeper to beat at the end of the first half, but he put the ball wide.

The first half lacked rhythm as both teams tried to establish their playing style. Omaha pressed well in their flat 4-4-2 formation. Hailstorm had more of the ball, but struggled to build out of the back. The ball movement was too slow. That would continue in the second half.

“They feed off mistakes. If we were going to lose, it’s going to be our own doing. We gave away the ball. They’re the champions because they work their balls off. They’re the most organized team in their structure in USL League One,” Hailstorm manager Éamon Zayed said on a media conference call after the match.

Noe Meza made it 1-0 in the 46th minute. Off a poor back pass, Omaha worked the ball forward. Kemal Malcom put the ball on a platter for Meza who made a late run to the top of the box, shooting first time to score. Twelve minutes later Conor Doyle made it 2-0. Some great team passing saw him in on goal to beat Thomas Olsen.

“Our Achilles’ heel so far has been when a team scores against us, we go into a shell instead of reacting. That’s what happened tonight. That’s disappointing,” Zayed added.

Northern Colorado did not see enough of a response after either goal to get back into the game. The best chance came in the 84th minute when Trevor Amann hit the bar with a header on a set piece. The match ended 2-0.

“We had a good cup run and two good wins. The fight and effort in those two games were not replicated tonight. I don’t really have an excuse. Tonight we were second best. We didn’t match their effort and their fight,” he added.

Three Key Thoughts:

Intensity and structure: Both teams stuck to their identity. This match was going to come down to who executed on their principals better and who made mistakes that got punished.

“Omaha did exactly what I thought. There’s nothing to their play. I’m not being disrespectful. They’ve been so successful. Their coach Jay Mims has come out of college, he’s not a tactician. He’s a college coach who sets up in a 4-4-2,” said Zayed.

Omaha were the more intense and energetic side. They created more with less of the ball. They made fewer mistakes. They finished and grew into the game.

No excuses on road weariness: Hailstorm have yet to play a home match this season with the Legends Complex under construction. Zayed acknowledged this challenge but did not accept it as an excuse for the performance or the result. “It’s been a grueling away schedule so far. We were down to 17 men to pick from tonight. In the meantime, we need to learn from the mistakes and results.”

Possible redemption: These teams meet in league play in two weeks. Hailstorm will play their first home game within a month. There is time to apply the lessons learned from this game to be better for it come the business end of the season.

Photo courtesy of Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.


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