Pioneers Beat Stars

Get ready to play #1 Seacoast United Phantoms


By Tim Peterson

Turley Publications Sports Correspondent


LUDLOW—The final result of the friendly soccer match between the Champions Experience Stars and the Western Mass. Pioneers will be probably forgotten in a couple of days, but the memories of the very special evening at historic Lusitanio Stadium will last forever.


The current Pioneers players scored four second half goals en route to a 5-1 victory over the C.E. Stars, which featured several former Pioneers players, before a large crowd last Wednesday night.


“It was a very special event for everyone,” said Pioneers head coach Federico Molinari. “The fans got to see several former Pioneers players. They also saw two big time star soccer players play.”    


The two big time soccer stars are Douglas Costa and Rafinha, who are both members of Bayern Munich and the Brazilian National team.   


“Rafinha and I are from the same hometown in Brazil,” said Everson Maciel, who was one of the event organizers and a former Pioneers player. “Rafinha and Costa wanted to come to the United States and play in a couple of friendly matches. Ludlow probably has the best soccer environment in the United States.”


Prior to the match, Rafinha and Costa held a clinic on the artificial turf field for more than 100 youth players. They also held an autograph session at the Gremio Lusitano Club, which is located across the street for the stadium.    


Rafinha and Costa, who had played in a friendly in Hamden, Connecticut the previous night, played 60 minutes in Wednesday’s match. The duo took a couple of shots on goal during the first half, but neither one of them scored any goals in the match. Before leaving the stadium, Rafinha and Costa signed a few more autographs for the fans.


The C.E. Stars were coached by Leszek Wrona, who guided the Pioneers 1999 squad to the USL D-3 Pro League championship title. The Pioneers lost in the USL Second Division finals in 2005, which was also coached by Wrona. 


“I coached most of these guys in the past. It was also very nice to have Rafinha and Costa play for my team tonight,” Wrona said. “We played very well in the first half, but my guys got a little bit tired during the second half. The current Pioneers players are much younger than my team.”


Following the match, Leszek Wrona took several pictures with his son, Alex, who’s a starting defender on this year’s Pioneers squad.


“I remember coming here and watching a lot of the former Pioneers players play when my father coached the team,” Alex Wrona said. “It was also a lot of fun playing against those players tonight. I also think my father really enjoyed coaching them again.”


Current Western Mass. assistant coach Jay Willis, who played in his final match for the Pioneers last summer, suited up for the C.E. Stars. He played the first 45 minutes of the match as a defender. Willis, who’s from Ludlow, is also the men’s soccer head coach at Worcester State University.


“Jay looked pretty good out there tonight,” said Pioneers midfielder Maxi Viera, who only played the first half. “I really wish that he was still playing for us. It was a lot of fun.”      


A few other former Pioneers players, who played for the C.E. Stars, were Paul Kelly, Paul Wright, Brad Miller, Jayme Kapinos, Joey Kapinos, and Luke Perry.


The Kapinos brothers, who are from Ludlow, are members of the Ontario Fury, which competes in the Major Arena Soccer League.  


“No matter what the outcome is, it’s always nice playing a match in this stadium because of the history,” said Jayme Kapinos, who graduated from Ludlow High School in 2007. “I would love to see this turn into a yearly event. There are a lot of people here tonight, which is very nice to see.” 


The Pioneers took a 1-0 lead during the 33rd minute when Chae Brangman sprinted down the right wing before sending a cross to Ludlow native Kyle Tomas, who fired a shot into the right corner.


Charles Guelly netted two of the Pioneers second half goals, while Mike Gonsalves, who graduated from Ludlow High School, and Deandre Brown netted the other two goals for the home team.


Wright, who also played for several indoor professional soccer teams, scored the C.E. Stars only goal during the 81st minute.


The Pioneers (5-1-2), who are in second place in the P.D.L. Northeast Division, will be hosting first place Seacoast United Phantoms (7-0-2) in a very important match at 7:30pm on Friday night.        

Charles Guelly