Pioneers Enjoy Last Minute Victory

Host FC Boston this Sunday


By Tim Peterson

Turley Publications Sports Correspondent


LUDLOW—Just when it was beginning to look like the Western Mass. Pioneers would have to settle for a tie against A.C. Connecticut after holding a 2-0 halftime advantage, starting defender Matt Moore came to the rescue for the home team. 


Moore, who’s from Keighley, England, scored his first goal of the 2017 campaign in stoppage time giving the Pioneers an exciting 3-2 victory on a damp night at historic Lusitano Stadium on Friday (June 30).


“We began to relax a little bit during the final twenty minutes of the match and they were able to score two goals against us,” Moore said. “It would’ve been very disappointing if we had to settle for a tie, but I’m very glad that I was able to help out my team tonight.”


Moore, who started 11 games for the A.I.C. men’s soccer team as a graduate senior last fall, has only scored two goals since joining the Pioneers at the start of the 2016 season.      


“It was a little bit of déjà vu for me,” Moore said. “The only goal that I scored last season was also in a home match with A.C. Connecticut, which was a 4-1 win.”  

Moore described his latest goal, which was scored on a corner kick.


“The ball was chipped into the box by Alex Wrona,” he said. “It skimmed off a player’s head and it bounced out to me on the left side. I then hit a half volley shot into the far corner. Once the ball left my foot, I knew it was going into the net. I then turned around and celebrated with the boys on the bench.”      


A.C. Connecticut only had ten players on the field at that point, as midfielder Trevor Babin had received his second caution from the referee in the 84th resulting in a red card. 

Pioneers head coach Federico Molinari was pleased with the final outcome of Friday’s home match, but he wasn’t very happy with his team’s second half performance.

“A win is certainly much better than a tie, but we’re still having a lot of trouble finishing the game,” Molinari said. “We now have to play another game on Sunday and I wasn’t able to rest many of the players because they scored two goals against us. We had a lot of scoring chances that we missed and we can’t afford to miss those chances. It’s unacceptable and it’s also very frustrating.”


The last second victory over A.C. Connecticut helped the Pioneers (6-2-2) keep pace with the Long Island Rough Riders for the battle for second playoff spot in the PDL Eastern Conference Northeast Division. The Rough Riders (6-1-3), who posted a 1-0 win against GPS Portland on Friday night, remained in second place with 21 points. They’re one point ahead of the Pioneers, who are in third place. The Seacoast United Phantoms (9-1-2) are in first place with 29 points.


The Pioneers could trade places with the Rough Riders if they’re able to defeat F.C. Boston (5-4-2), in another very important home match on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is slated for 4p.m.


The first two meetings of the season between F.C. Boston and the Pioneers, which were both played at Mount Ida College, ended in 1-1 draws. F.C. Boston who’s also in the playoff hunt, defeated the Pioneers, 2-1, at Lusitano Stadium last July.      


 “The game against F.C. Boston on Sunday is going to be another very big game for us,” Moore said. “We really should have won both games that we’ve played against them so far this season. We definitely owe them one. Hopefully, we can get another victory in that match.”


The Pioneers home stand will continue next Friday night when they face the Rough Riders for the first time this season.  


Prior to the start of Friday’s home match against A.C. Connecticut (1-8-2), the Pioneers starters were escorted onto the field by members of the Western United Pioneers U-13 boys team, which is coached by Jij Mercer. The U-13 team is currently ranked #1 in Massachusetts and fourth in the United States. They finished the spring season with a perfect 10-0 record and recently captured the State Cup by a combine 19-0 score. The Western United Pioneers will be competing in the U.S. Club National Cup, which will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, in a couple of weeks.

The Pioneers took a 1-0 lead during the seventh minute of the opening half on a goal by forward Chae Brangman, which was assisted by Carlos Ruiz, who leads the team with four goals.


During the next ten minutes, A.C. Connecticut put a ton of pressure on the Pioneers defense and goalie Ben Martinez. The visitors had four straight corner opportunities and a couple of other shots on goal, but the score remained 1-0.


In the 25th minute, a shot attempt by Moore was deflected away by A.C. Connecticut goalie Joe Martin, but Pioneers midfielder Kyle Tomas, who’s from Ludlow, was in the right spot to put in the rebound shot for his second goal of the season.


Molinari talked with his players in the locker room at halftime about protecting the 2-0 lead.


“They say a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in a soccer match,” said Pioneers midfielder Daniel Fabian. “We talked about at that at halftime and we were trying not to give up that first goal.”


A.C. Connecticut ended Martinez’s shutout bid when defender Myles Yorke scored an unassisted goal on a header in the 70th minute.


Two minutes later, forward Louis Greenway-Tambini netted the game tying goal for the visiting team.


The score remained tied until Moore became the hero of the match just before the referee blew his whistle for the final time.  

Carlos Ruiz