Newcomers Spark Pioneers

Need win Sunday to make Playoffs

 

By Tim Peterson

Turley Publications Sports Correspondent

 

LUDLOW—Midfielder Guilherme Rodrigues who joined the Western Mass. Pioneers last week, has scored only four goals in the 40 career matches that he has played for the UMass-Lowell men’s soccer team. 

 

Rodrigues played in an exhibition match for the Pioneers against the New England Revolution U-23 squad at Gillette Stadium last Tuesday. Rodrigues started his first PDL match on Friday night and wound up posting a hat-trick leading the Pioneers to a 7-0 shutout victory over the Westchester Flames in the final regular season match at historic Lusitano Stadium.  

 

“I haven’t scored this many goals in a soccer match in a very long time, so to come here and help the team win, is an honor for me,” said Rodrigues, who recorded his first hat-trick since he was a member of the boys’ varsity soccer team at Lowell High School. “I was a little bit nervous at the beginning of the match, but the crowd really helped me a lot.”

 

Rodrigues, who missed most of the 2016 college season due to an injury, scored a total of 25 goals and had 14 assists during his high school career. He was recommended to Western Mass. head coach Federico Molinari by Frankie D’Agostino, who was an assistant coach for the UMass-Lowell men’s soccer team last fall. D’Agostino was recently named as the UMass-Lowell women’s soccer head coach and he has also played in a couple of matches for the Pioneers this summer.      

 

“We’ve been talking with Guilherme about joining our team during the past couple of weeks, but this was the first time that he was able to attend a game,” Molinari said. “He did everything possible to help the team win tonight.”       

 

The shutout victory also kept the Pioneers (8-3-2) playoffs hopes alive. The Pioneers, who are currently in third place with 26 points, would’ve been eliminated with a loss against the Flames (2-11-1). The Long Island Rough Riders (8-2-3) remained in second place with 27 points after squeaking out a 2-1 road win against A.C. Connecticut on Friday night.

 

The Pioneers and the Rough Riders are scheduled to face each other in the regular season finale at St. Anthony’s High School located in South Huntington, N.Y at 4p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The winner of that match will finish in second place in the Eastern Conference Northeast Division table and will also be playing in a playoff match on Tuesday night.     

 

“We now need to win our final match of the regular season on Sunday in order to make the playoffs. A tie in that match wouldn’t be good enough for us,” said Pioneers midfielder Pierre Villez, who also scored a goal in the Pioneers third shutout win of the 2017 season against the Flames. “We really needed to win tonight’s match, but Sunday is our most important match of the season.”         

 

Villez, who’s from Amiens, France, was also selected to the PDL Team of the Week. Rodrigues should be one of the leading candidates for that honor this week.

 

The Pioneers posted a 3-0 win over the Rough Riders at Lusitano Stadium on July 7. The Western Mass. squad finished with a 5-2 home record this year.

 

“This was a very good way to finish our home schedule,” Molinari said. “We always have a lot of fans come watch us play here and it’s also a professional soccer stadium. This is the best place to play a soccer match in the league.”      

 

Prior to the start of Friday’s home match, Laura Hicks of Belchertown did an outstanding job of singing the National Anthem.

 

Rodrigues scored his first goal for the Pioneers, which was unassisted, during the ninth minute of the opening half by firing a high shot into the right corner past Flames goalie Sergio Hernandez. 

 

Six minutes later, midfielder Carlos Ruiz, who also played soccer at UMass-Lowell last fall, lined a penalty shot into the right corner increasing the Pioneers lead to 2-0.     

During the 25th minute, Alencar Junior, who played in his first match of the season for the Pioneers on July 7, doubled dribbled at the top penalty area and the shot attempt with his left foot deflected off the cross bar.

 

The Pioneers did take a 3-0 lead in the 44th minute when Rodrigues put a low shot into the right corner, which was assisted by Junior.

 

“Junior passed me the ball and I dribbled past the goalie before putting it into the net,” Rodrigues said. “I’ve watched Junior play in the past, but this was the first time that I’ve been on the same field with him. He’s just a great soccer player and he makes the game a whole lot easier for the rest of us.”

 

Following a halftime ceremony honoring several of the area youth soccer teams, Rodrigues netted his third goal of the evening, which was assisted by midfielder Dan Fabian.

 

Junior was also credited with the assist on the Pioneers fifth and sixth goals of the match, which were scored by midfielder Charles Guelly and Villez.

 

The Pioneers scored their final goal of the match during the 81st minute when midfielder Jacob Mannix sent a long pass from midfield to Junior, who scored on a breakaway shot.

Down at the other end of the field, Pioneers goalkeeper Ben Martinez had to make only three saves in recording his sixth shutout of the season.   

 

The Pioneers will be looking to close out the regular season with another victory against the Rough Riders on Sunday afternoon.         

Pierre Villez