Justin Sukow’s first professional goal — in his first professional start — was enough for Forward Madison FC to stake its claim as a contender in USL League One, as the Mingos ended Union Omaha’s nine-game unbeaten streak which dated to September 2020.
Midfielder Audi Jepson intercepted a pass from Daltyn Knutson near the center stripe and carried it forward as Sukow darted toward the Owls’ backline. Jepson played a nicely-weighted pass through, which Sukow calmly slotted past goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu, sending the Flock End into hysterics.
“I’ve scored goals before in club, high school and college, but scoring in front of the Flock, that was one of the best feelings in my life and I’ll never forget it,” Sukow said.
“We know what he’s got, he’s got dancing feet, so we know what he can do it,” Head Coach Carl Craig said of Sukow. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do (with Sukow) but we know when he gets on the ball, he can create trouble for the opponent. He’s also given Michael Vang something to think about so that’s really positive for us as a football club.”
The goal had been coming since early on, as Forward Madison dominated almost every facet of the match in the first half. In the first 45 minutes, Madison held 60 percent of the possession and unleashed 11 shots to Omaha’s one. The second half tilted toward the visitors, who held most of the possession and managed eight more shots to Madison’s four, as the Mingos shifted into a more defensive posture for the final 20 minutes.
The match marked the return to full form of right back Christian Diaz, whose arrival in Madison was delayed by immigration issues and who had come on as a substitute in the team’s first two games. Last night he put in 90 active minutes, supporting the attack with bombastic runs down the right side and shutting down many of Omaha’s possessions.
Eric Leonard also returned to action after suffering a concussion in the season opener. He came on as a defensive substitute in the 85th minute.
The win will surely draw attention around the league. Omaha were the runners-up in USL League One in 2020, earning a spot in the final match, which was canceled due to COVID protocols, and look to be a contender for the title in 2021 as well.
“They are unbeaten, but so are we,” Craig said. “We are getting better. We still have a long way to go, we took the game to them. We should be much more mature at the end (of the game), but when you’re looking to win the game and that’s thrown at you. But I’m quite pleased with the way we played our style of football.”
It was the first of four games in 12 days for Madison, who travel to Statesboro, Georgia for a weekend match against Tormenta FC, then play at Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday and return to Breese Stevens for a rematch against Omaha on Sunday, June 6.
The announced attendance at last night’s match was 1,919, 390 more than the home opener. Over the next two home matches, the club will continue to increase capacity toward 5,000 as Dane County’s health restrictions will expire June 2.