Lexington Cruise Past Omaha In New Look
Lexington came home to Toyota Stadium on a 4-match skid and desperately needed some points against a red-hot opponent in Union Omaha – and boy, did they make a statement! Lexington sent the Owls home empty-handed on both the scoreboard and the table with a dominant 3-0 win in their new look (and I am not just talking about the debut of the All-Black kits.) Lexington (4 wins – 5 draws – 9 losses) remained 10th in the league table after the win, with Omaha (6-7-5) maintaining playoff position in 6th despite the loss.
Coach Sam Stockely took a bold step in training this weekend by changing the club’s formation from the 4-4-2 they had been running all season with just 2-3 days for the boys to learn it. And that step paid off big time against Omaha’s opponent that had won 4 out of their last 5 going into last night.
Nico Brown got right to work for Lexington, scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute after a Terique Mohammed pass that was misplayed by the Owls, leaving Brown with 1-on-1 against Omaha’s Rashid Nuhu that Brown buried into the opposite corner for his 6th goal of the season. Ates “The Truth” Diouf kept pace with Brown as Lexington’s leading goal scorer when he got his 6th goal of the year by rising a knocking in a header off a beautiful cross by Mohammed in the 41st minute to give Lexington a 2-goal cushion going into the half.
Khalid Balogun continued his super sub form by adding the cherry on top with Lexington’s 3rd (Balogun’s 4th) and final goal in the 81st minute, assisted by Tate Robertson, notching his 5th assist of the season and bringing him tied for 3rd in the league for assists. The game also marked Lexington’s first game scoring 3 goals, and is the club’s largest margin of victory this year.
It was self-evident that the boys only had about 2-3 days of training with the new formation. Murillo and Ceja-Gonzalez were often drifting into the same zones on the field, with Robertson or Mohammed having to vocalize where the back 3 should be positioned early on in the match. Now, the back 3 of Fox, Murillo, and Ceja-Gonzales (especially the latter) did a great job recovering from these mistakes and looked more comfortable with the formation as the game went on, so I am curious to see if Coach Stockley makes any changes for their next matchup against the Kickers, or will he roll out with the same 11 that got the club some much-needed points in a dominate fashion.
However, Lexington has some faults, having committed 20 fouls and picking up 5 yellow cards on the night. Additionally, they got lucky on a few of Omaha’s shots as they went just a few inches wide of the net. There were many times that I was sure a ball was going to hit the back of the net throughout the 2nd half, so they will need to continue to clean up their defense within their own box and begin to not be as exposed to crosses as they have been in the past and were lucky enough to not get burned on last night. The defense just needs more time under the new formation to get a better understanding of positioning.
Lexington lived up to the potential that many fans and analysts (myself included) believed they had in them last night. Still, if they want to make that playoff push, they will have to continue to put in a full 90 performance like last night, week in and week out. We will see if they have what it takes to take on the Richmond Kickers (7th in the table and 1-2-2 in their last 5), who fell 3-1 on the road to the Hailstorm, at home on Saturday, July 29th. Kickoff is set for 7 pm EST/ 6 pm CST. The Kickers got the best of Lexington when the 2 sides played in City Stadium on May 20th with a 2-1 scoreline. Can Coach Stockley and his boys get revenge on home turf?
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Photo By: Jacob Bramley