Home Madison Forward Madison come back twice to earn draw with defending champs Union...

Forward Madison come back twice to earn draw with defending champs Union Omaha

Derek Gebhard takes a throw-in during Forward Madison's 2-2 draw with Union Omaha.

Forward Madison FC fell behind twice and had an answer both times — first through an Audi Jepson penalty and secondly through a silkly finish by Finnish loanee Jeremiah Streng — to earn a point in their home League One opener Saturday.

The defending champion Owls of Union Omaha came out on the front foot, pinning the Mingos in their own end, unable to sustain much possession and breaking through in the 15th, as Noe Meza found Hugo Kametani in the middle of the box. The Omaha striker was able to get one step on Madison defender Mitch Osmond and fire past goalkeeper Phil Breno from short range.

Conceding the goal seemed to energize and focus the home side, who were able to hold the bulk of the possession for the rest of the way — the Mingos finished the match with 68 percent of the ball — and create a number of chances going forward.

In the 37th, midfielder Derek Gebhard delighted the home crowd with a smooth dribble to get past left back Ryen Jiba to make his way into the Omaha penalty area, where his run was interrupted by a clumsy challenge from JP Scearce, prompting the referee to point to the spot.

Audi Jepson stepped up and sent Omaha keeper Rashid Nuhu to the left while his authoritative shot went right, and the match was level.

The visitors tallied again just before half time. In the third minute of first-half stoppage, Conor Doyle sent a looping ball into the Madison box, drawing Breno off his line in an attempt to collect it. Scearce, however, made up for his earlier error by beating Breno to it, sending a soft header goalward and in.

Much of the second half belonged to the Mingos, and their sustained possession paid off in the 70th minute. Gebhard collected a failed clearance near the right touch line, took a couple touches forward and got a low cross into the box, where Streng was waiting for it. The Finn took one touch to the right, spun and put a shot across the grain to the left, catching Nuhu leaning the wrong way and evening the score.

Winger Rojay Smith saved the game for Madison, clearing a Jiba Cross that beat Breno and was sitting two yards from the goal line for Meza. Smith was with Meza step for step and cleared it over the bar.

Head Coach Matt Glaeser was not satisfied with the point.

“The team was resilient” to come back to equalize twice, he said after the match. “Quite honestly, we need to win that game. That’s a game we should win. Two cheap goals from us and we’ve got to be better. But pleased with how the guys stuck with it…. I think, as a group, we need a little bit more composure in the final third.”

“We just kept believing and just knew that we were going to score,” Streng said. Coming from behind to earn draws in the first two league matches “just shows character and the will to win. We are going to be a winning team this year. I really believe in the team and I think we’re gonna finish really high up in the table.”

“Tremendous character from the squad,” said midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omionu. “It exemplifies our character once again. And I’m grateful to be a part of a group that’s clearly displaying that to start the season.”

The Mingos next travel to Arizona to take on FC Tucson (0-1) before returning home to host MLS side Minnesota United in the third round of the US Open Cup on April 20.