OMAHA — In a Class A boys state semifinal match that had the anticipation and drama of a championship match, Omaha Westside beat Omaha Bryan 2-1 on Friday.
Fifth-ranked Westside advances to play No. 2 Gretna in the championship match on Tuesday.
It was a historic season for Bryan, and its supporters showed up in downtown Omaha to help many areas of Morrison Stadium, part of a crowd of about 3,000 for the match.
The two-match session paid attendance was 3,966, including the preceding Gretna-Lincoln East match.
It was one of the largest crowds in state soccer tournament history, and likely the largest for a nonchampionship match. In 2013 there were about 8,000 fans for the Creighton Prep-Omaha South final, and another Prep-South showdown in the 2016 final had about 5,000 fans.
Omaha Bryan has made the state semifinals for the first time in program history in just its second state appearance. It’s also the first time this year Omaha Bryan has made it to state in a team sport.
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So Omaha Public Schools provided free tickets for Omaha Bryan students, Bryan middle school students and current Omaha Public Schools employees. OPS ended up purchasing about 1,700 tickets.
Bryan also hosted a tailgate party before the match with a food truck and face painting.
The drama really arrived in the first half when Omaha Bryan took on a major challenge when Luis Gallardo committed a foul and was hit with a red-card penalty. That meant the Bears had to play with just 10 players for the final 57 minutes of the match.
About 11 minutes after the red card, Westside got its first goal scored by Jeremiah Hteh from about 12 yards.
In the second half, Isiah Valenzuela scored on a free kick to make it 2-0.
The final seven minutes of the match were suspenseful, too, after Bryan got its first goal on a penalty kick by Cesar Hernandez with eight minutes remaining.
With five minutes left Bryan had a good chance on a free kick, but the shot by Hernandez sailed just high.
Bryan had some good scoring chances despite playing with 10 players for three-quarters of the match. Omaha Westside led in shots just 9-8.
Omaha Westside junior forward Tristan Alvano, who is also an all-state football player as a kicker, said it was a great match to play in.
“It was the most hectic and fun atmosphere I’ve played in for just the fans, the noise, the heckling,” Alvano said. “You’d just hear a big sound of noise, and it was just nuts. It was surreal. I’ve played on some big football games, but this is just so much more compact so it’s just surreal for a soccer match.”