New England Soccer Today

PDL: Pioneers Earn Comeback Draw vs. Connecticut

Photo credit: David Henry/

Photo credit: David Henry/

LUDLOW, Mass. – Substitute Josh Calderon scored late to dig the Western Mass Pioneers out of a two-goal deficit and secure a 2-2 draw against AC Connecticut on Friday at Lusitano Stadium.

After Connecticut opened the scoring on a 15th minute goal from Joe Baccielo, and then added another from Zach Zuritas in the 49th minute, Calderon assisted on Marco Addonizio’s 69th minute strike then seized the equalizer himself in the 75th minute.

The draw put an end to a seven-game losing streak for the Pioneers while Connecticut collected its first road point since May.

Two days removed from a midweek match against Seacoast United, the Pioneers’ intent was evident early on. They came out firing on all cylinders during the first five minutes, and nearly found paydirt when Tyler Carlos sent a corner into the box that fell to Marcelo Cunha, who hit his shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Steve Sasso. But Ashton Pett was there to clear it off the line.

It wasn’t long before the tide turned for the Pioneers. After putting Connecticut under heavy pressure, the Blues fought back in the 16th minute when Dante Spinelli played a through ball to Joe Baccielo, who went one-on-one with keeper Nick Valleca before sending it through to open the account.

While Connecticut pressed for a second strike, Pioneers made a bid to level it at one apiece shortly after the break. A long-distance blast from Cunha required Sasso to make an acrobatic save to deny it in the 47th minute, keeping his club on top.

Moments after Sasso’s superlative stop, Connecticut charged ahead when Zach Zurita gave it a go from 25 yards and buried it to widen the margin in the 49th minute.

Faced with a two-goal deficit in the latter stages of their second game in three days, few would have faulted the Pioneers if they’d simply attempted to plug the holes and hope for a fortuitous break. Instead, they sent numbers forward, and took back control of the match shortly after the hour mark.

That approach paid dividends in the 69th minute. The Pioneers crashed Connecticut’s end, and Calderon, who came on in the 58th minute, found Addonizio in the area, where the Pioneers midfielder put it out of the reach of Sasso to cut the deficit in half.

Six minutes later, a second goal materialized for the Pioneers when Ryan Taylor broke into the box, forcing Sasso to come off his line to cut the striker’s angle. But instead of taking the shot, Taylor tapped it wide to Calderon, who punched it through to level it in the 75th minute.

Western Mass came tantalizingly close to scoring the winner in the 90th minute when Addonizio collected pass from Alex Wrona, and only had Sasso to beat. But the Connecticut keeper quickly converged to smother the opportunity and preserve the draw.

The Pioneers will return to action on Friday, Jul. 10 for their home finale at Lusitano Stadium against Real Boston Rams at 7:30pm. Connecticut will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Milton, Mass. for a road clash against the Rams at Milton High School at 6:00pm.

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