New England Soccer Today

PDL: Pioneers Clinch Playoff Berth in Wild Win

Photo credit: Western Mass Pioneers

Photo credit: Western Mass Pioneers

What a difference a year can make.

One season removed from a last-place finish, the Western Mass Pioneers punched their ticket to the PDL playoffs with a wild 4-3 win over the Westchester Flames on Friday at Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, Mass.

Veteran midfielder Maxi Vieira bagged a quick brace by scoring in the fourth and eighth minutes while Kyle Tomas tallied in the 37th minute to give the hosts a seemingly secure lead going into halftime.

But the Flames mounted a furious comeback as Jonathan Uy struck not once, but twice in the 46th and 76th minutes before James Thristino equalized in the 84th minute, turning the match upside down.

With the score suddenly level at three apiece in the waning moments, Ben Lamb came through with a 90th minute tally to send the Pioneers to their first postseason berth since 2008, when the squad competed in the now-defunct USL-2 league. The team moved to the PDL in 2010.

Lamb’s winner also extended the Pioneers’ unbeaten streak to eight (6-0-2), a run few would have predicted after Western Mass went 1-11-2 in 2015.

The postseason-clinching victory pushed the Pioneers’ current mark to 7-1-4 (25 points), allowing them to reclaim their spot atop the Northeast Division table. The loss dropped the Flames to 4-8-1 (13 points), leaving them in seventh place.

Western Mass will attempt to strengthen their hold on first place on Friday, Jul. 15 when they host FC Boston at Lusitano Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.

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