New England Soccer Today

Junior: I Was Ready to Play Again

Photo credit: David Henry/sweetdogphotos.com

It was a sight few in the stands at Lusitano Stadium expected to see when arrived for Friday’s match between the Pioneers and Long Island Rough Riders, but it was a welcome one by any measure.

Three years after he last donned a Pioneers uniform, local goalscoring sensation Alencar Junior, who played for the club in 2013 and 2014, was back on the pitch in Ludlow, Mass. wearing the colors of the hometown team.

“I love this community, and I also love playing soccer in this stadium,” Junior told the media after the match. “I’ve stayed in touch with (head coach) Federico (Molinari). He called me this week and asked me if I wanted to rejoin the team. I told him that I was ready to play again.”

And it’s a good thing for the Pioneers that the Brazilian striker was at the ready. With the bulk of the regular season behind them, the Western Mass roster, like many PDL rosters at this time of the year, was getting thin. So Molinari reached out to the man who once scored nine goals in the team’s final six games during the 2013 campaign.

“We needed a couple of players, so Junior came and helped us out,” Molinari told the media after the match. “I thought he played very well, but his teammates also helped him a lot tonight.”

Although Junior’s appearance was a surprise to many in the Lusitano Stadium crowd, the players weren’t given much of an advance notice themselves.

“I really didn’t know Junior would be returning to our team until Federico emailed the game roster to us earlier in the week,” Fabian said. “I was very excited when I saw his name listed on the roster and it’s also a very good thing for our team.”

That’s a sentiment Pioneers midfielder Evan Burokas, who first teamed up with Junior in 2012 with the now-defunct Worcester Hydra, also shares.

“It was very nice playing with him again tonight,” Burokas told the media after the match. “He’s always a threat to score a goal, especially if you give him a little bit of open space. He’s a very exciting soccer player for the fans to watch.”

No doubt Junior brought excitement to Friday’s match, a 3-0 win over the Long Island Rough Riders. In the 70th minute, he fed a pass to Pierre Villez to make it a two-goal advantage after Lasse Orlik’s opening goal in the 20th minute. But Junior truly brought the crowd to its feet in the 80th minute when he did what he does best: putting the ball in the back of the net.

“This was the best game that we’ve played all season long,” said Molinari. “The whole team was a lot more focused and everyone was fighting for each other on the field.”

It remains to be seen whether Junior’s late-season addition will help steer the third-place Pioneers to the playoffs for the second year in a row. The team is one point behind Long Island on the Northeast Division table with two games to go.

But one thing is clear: Friday night’s match was a special occasion.

“We just played a perfect game as a team,” Junior said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

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