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Pair of first-half goals lift Freedoms over Pioneers

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Western Mass Pioneers coach John Voight is aware how dangerous strikers Rocky Bojovic and Julio Cesar Dos Santos are and how critical they are to the New York Freedoms’ success on the soccer field.

But stopping the prolific scorers? That’s another story.

Bojovic and Dos Santos scored a pair of goals two minutes apart in the first half to lift the Freedoms to a 2-1 win Sunday night at St. John’s University.

The victory, the team’s second in a row, allowed the Freedoms to stay within striking range of the first-place Long Island Rough Riders in the Pro Select League’s Atlantic Region. The Freedoms (6-5-2) are four points behind the defending national champions.

“Between those boys and (Georges Haba) they have 20 goals, but you can talk about them all you want, they’re still very crafty, they’re very smart,” Voight said. “You kind of hope they miss a couple of chances.”

They didn’t.

Western Mass (6-4-1) struggled adjusting to the artificial turf at DaSilva Field and the Freedoms made them pay with a pair of goals midway through the first half.

Former St. John’s assistant coach John Diffley, who played for the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny in Major League Soccer, chipped a ball to Bojovic in the box and the veteran striker blasted it under the crossbar from 10 yards out to put the Freedoms in front, 1-0 in the 29th minute.

It was Bojovic’s sixth goal of the year.

Two minutes later Stephen Franzke won the ball along the far sideline and sent a great cross to Dos Santos at the top of the box and the Brazilian’s one-timer beat Pioneers keeper Daniel Pires low inside the far post for his team-leading ninth goal of the year.

“At times I think we played some of the best football we’ve played this year, particularly the last 20 minutes of the first half,” said Freedoms co-captain Kevin Daly. “The second goal was a combination of a good move, and Julio finished it absolutely superbly. We did well; I think it was one of the better performances of the year.”

Western Mass had the better of play in the opening 20 minutes of the second half and had two quality chances to pull within a goal. But Ryan Levesque’s shot from 25 yards out caromed off the football crossbar in the 62nd minute and Chris Mogavero’s header off a free kick sailed wide of the near post four minutes later.

Finally, a minute into stoppage time, Mark Manganello spoiled Nate Tickner’s shutout bid when his low shot from 27 yards out bounced off the far post and into the net.

The Freedoms now have a 10-day break before hosting the Brooklyn Knights of the Premier Development League July 9 at 8 p.m. in a local derby with much more than bragging rights at stake.

“Wingert actually lives in the basement below where we live; I helped him move into the house the other day,” Daly said of St. John’s standout Chris Wingert, a starting midfielder with the Knights. “They’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of young lads who are going to go on and do good things in the future once they leave college. They’re a lot of our good friends, but there will be no friends out there that day.”

Brooklyn Knights 2, Albany Blackwatch Highlanders 1. The Knights stretched their unbeaten streak to nine games Sunday, erasing an early 1-0 deficit to defeat Albany at Union College in upstate Schenectady.

Jordan Cila and Rinaldo Chambers scored second-half goals for the Knights (9-2-2), who are now one point behind first-place Vermont in the Northeast Division, although the Voltage has played two more games.

Brooklyn Knights 2, Vermont Voltage 2. Craig Smart scored a pair of goals — his fifth and sixth in five games — in the opening 30 minutes to give Brooklyn a 2-0 lead at Vermont Saturday night.

But Vermont (9-3-3) rallied to tie the game on goals from Oliver Occean and Bo Vuckovic 10 minutes apart late in the first half.

The Knights host Albany Sunday at the Metropolitan Oval at 5 p.m.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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