In a physical and disjointed game, a possession-dominant Forward Madison drew with the inefficient but dangerous, Union Omaha. Madison looks to be an incredibly physical and possessive force that pressed well when required, while Omaha showed signs of their old ways at times: incredibly dangerous on the counter, a great pressing structure, and long vertical balls that could disorganize opponents. This game had a little bit of everything: physicality, beautiful passes, heroes, and of course a hotly contested penalty. What went well and what didn’t? Let’s take a look!
Key Match Stats
Forward Madison set up in a 3-4-3/3-4-2-1, Omaha set up in a 4-4-2
Possession: MAD 68% – 32% OMA
Pass Completion %: MAD – 80%, OMA – 62%
Touches in Opposition Box: MAD – 13(14 including penalty), OMA – 27
Shots (SOT): MAD – 14(4), OMA – 14(4)
xG (Non-Penalty xG): MAD 1.49 (0.72), OMA 1.17 (1.17)
Heat and Pass Maps:
Review and Analysis
At the beginning of the game, Madison’s 3-4-3 looked really solid progressing the ball against a Union Omaha side not yet in sync with each other. The back three easily bypassed the initial press of the two forwards by keeping the outside CBs wide enough to make it hard for them to press intensely. They also overloaded the strikers centrally with either Leonard or Andrew Wheeler Ominu dropping in between them, forcing them to narrow. This was meant to allow the outside CBs the freedom to progress forward via a carry or pass free of the press, but it was executed at varying degrees of success.
There were some flashes of organizational brilliance from Omaha at times, looking like their old selves by pressing as a unit, isolating players and forcing them into negative decisions. They even tried to match the back three with one of the wingers pushing up at times to prevent the wide progression. In this situation, it creates numerical parity across the front line, but leaves you open to being played around if other people aren’t covered well. Madison often had free access to their wingbacks, which allowed them to progress up the field easily via combination play between the wide areas and the half spaces. We see this exact pattern happen for Madison in build up over and over again throughout the game. Use of half spaces to horizontally stretch the Omaha defensive block in order to gain access to the wingbacks higher up the field.
Again, we will see in this next clip how Madison sought to break down the Omaha block to no avail. Part of the reason Madison struggled is because of how Omaha refused to use their fullbacks to press. There was rarely space in behind. The positioning of Alihodzic and Jiba was critical to stifling the progress of patterns in the final third. They attempt build up down both wings before launching in a cross that is claimed by Nuhu and comes to nothing. Omaha’s block does a good job of preventing space for players to run into in the box and forces that lofted cross that comes to nothing. Edit: After seeing the Tucson-Madison game, this is two games in a row where we see this same “horse-shoe” around the opposition box. They aren’t able to find vertical passes in central areas in the final third. It’s critical for them to find some different looks in order to spend more time in the opposition box and get better looks on goal.
I want to specifically highlight the passing performance of Mitch Osmond, as he was a monster on the progressive front. Spending time in both wide CB positions, he sprayed passes across the field, helping move his team towards the final third. I think what I liked most about Osmond’s performance was his ability to break defensive lines by carrying the ball himself. He was careful, but assured on the ball driving into space and coaxing defenders out of shape. You can find his action map from the game below. He was the target of a lot of Omaha attacks and was simply bested on this day from a defensive perspective, but his role in moving the team up the field is not to be ignored.
From the Omaha perspective, they struggled to find a good rhythm in the first half, partly due to chemistry still being formed and partly due to the physicality of Madison and how solid they were when their wingbacks dropped into the defensive block. Their build from the defensive third was somewhat familiar, though it was largely ineffective. As you can see in the pass map below, their build from the back consisted of launching long balls forward into Madison’s half / final third. The one advantage is that they were, at times, able to win second balls and keep possession alive. Their positioning to win these second balls set them up for chances in the final third and forcing Madison into really tough situations. When Omaha did receive the ball, Madison tried to disrupt any possible momentum because of how dangerous they know Omaha to be in transition / on the counter attack. Through tight marking and tactical fouls, Madison were able to disrupt a lot of the vertical runs and route one soccer that Omaha look to play. Unfortunately, tactical fouls also ended up indirectly being their undoing for the first goal.
The high press and ability to take advantage of plays deep within the opposition half of Omaha could not be kept at bay when they were organized. When they were able to isolate players, force passes back, or long balls forward they were able to win the ball, force turnovers, and create really good chances. Their first goal doesn’t even come from a bout of build up. It comes from a 3 minute period in which Madison are unable to get a ball out of their own third after conceding a free kick from a tactical foul. The Omaha press works perfectly, forcing two throw ins due to quick clearances before overloading areas in the final third to find open passing options.
As I noted above, the first goal was a thing of beauty that highlighted how well Omaha could disorganize their opponents in the final third without the need for long periods of sustained build up. Joe Brito receives out wide and is pressed by two madison players, which leaves an unmarked Conor Doyle in space to receive the ball and put a beautiful little trivela in to Noe Meza. It is hard to say if Meza meant to flick the ball on to Kametani, but Hugo does an incredible job of using his strength to hold off Osmond and put the goal in the back of the net. Even if it is saved, Omaha’s ability to get men into the box at opportune times is unmatched as a man crashes the back post in case of a rebound off the keeper.
Kametani was dangerous all night long, but this goal was a fantastic way to open his Omaha account. He made dangerous runs and passes while growing in confidence all along the way. He’s going to be a problem for oppositon back lines as he continues to grow. Despite missing a big chance, his runs off ball, touch, and understanding of his space really have him looking like a player to watch in 2022.
In the 34th minute, everything changes when Gebhard wins a penalty. It looks a bit soft, but Scearce doesn’t get his foot to the ball and attackers are generally well protected in USL League One in these situations. If anything, this passage of play highlights how frustrating the build up of Madison could be for the compact block of Omaha when it actually penetrated dangerous spaces. Gebhard holds his wide position and it gives him extra time on the ball as the Omaha block try to shift over to cover him, stretching their compact shape and giving room inside. Madison switch the play and he makes a dangerous run in behind the defense. Then, despite Jiba’s deep positioning, Gebhard beats him along the line and it forces his Omaha teammates to act. Regardless of how people feel about this penalty shout, Gebhard wins it and Jepson slots it away nicely to even the scoreline.
Finally, Conor Doyle does it again by putting in a beautiful ball that JP Scearce gets up to put away. The height of the ball is misjudged by the defenders and Breno is unable to get his hands on the ball. Conor Doyle was the creator of just about every good thing from Omaha on the night with 4 key passes, the beautiful trivela that leads to the first goal, and one assist. The marauding midfielder was all over the field, collecting loose balls, making great passes, and helping his team get chances in the box.
The second half was much of the same. Madison bring on Cyrus Rad and Jeremiah Streng in place of Murillo and Bartman, switching Osmond to the right side. Madison continued to try to overload the Omaha block with both wingbacks pushing up, forming a sort of 3-2-5 that was defensively solid but also sought to create trouble in the final third. A lot of the same passing patterns were there, whether it was cb to half space to wingback or cb to cm to winger, etc. Omaha responded to this by continuing to press wingers up to create numerical parity when needed, but preferring to keep structure unless a press could be triggered. Streng’s introduction did offer them a series of new looks as it allowed for more rotations between Thiam and Streng to disorganize the Omaha back line.
Omaha continued to press high, attempt to disrupt and isolate opposition players on the ball while also sticking with their vertical strategy in possession that almost paid more dividends in the 58th minute. Doyle wins a second ball and conducts his team to a beautiful chance that is just chipped over the top bar due to Kametani getting too much under the ball. Even with Omaha completing more passes down field, a combinantion of a re-invigorated Madison defense and an inability to convert chances kept Omaha to two goals.
Finally, in the 70th minute Streng brings the ‘Mingos level with a low shot from the top of the box. The goal was intended to be built from wide areas as was the case all game, but it’s not what actually leads to the goal. A pass from Maldonado can’t be collected by Streng and is cleared but takes what feels like an INCREDIBLY favorable bounce to stay in bounds and is crossed back into the box. A missed header by an Omaha defender allows Streng a second chance and he slots it away nicely. This was one of only FIVE touches taken by Madison in the opposition box in the entire second half. It’s great to have the quality to convert when the opportunity arises, but that’s a worrying statistic if it is to continue to be the case.
Ultimately, both teams can be happy with a draw but will also feel like more is to be done. Missed chances and a slowly growing chemistry kept Omaha from truly clicking while Madison looked to be stuck passing for passing’s sake, leaving them listless in the opposition box. Both teams are dealing with a bit of a rebuild, one from a player perspective and the other from a tactical AND player perspective. They’ll need time to settle in, but you can see why these two teams have playoff aspirations in 2022 if they can take some of their good ideas and turn them into actionable principles.
Omaha Man of the Match: Conor Doyle (Would be Scearce for his defensive performance if not for the penalty given up. 4 tackles, 1 interception, and a 85% duel win rate. No one got past him, not even Gebhard 👀.)
Key Passes: 4
For me, there was not a better player on the field on this night. Good positioning, great passing, and a steely determination honestly gave Omaha the draw. Without the offensive play of Conor Doyle, this match looks completely different.
Madison Man of The Match: Michael Maldonado
Successful defensive actions: 5
Total duels Won: 60%
Dribble success rate: 100% (2/2)
Maldonado combined down the left side really well all game long while also providing great defensive cover on that side. Unsettling the defense on and off the ball, he was a force to be reckoned with. Gebhard was a close shout, especially with winning the penalty but I felt that Maldonado’s overall game is what lands him in this spot.
*all videos and passing maps credit to USL League One. Stats from USL League One and American Soccer Analysis.