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MANCHESTER — The Vermont Fusion opened up their season with a 2-2 draw against the Rhode Island Rogues on a rainy Saturday evening at Applejack Field.

The Fusion had previously dominated the Rogues in their first two seasons of play, with a record of 4-0-0 and a goal differential of +13 against them heading into Saturday evening.

Forward Jordan Restivo gave the Fusion problems all day, however, notching both of the Rogues’ goals, including the equalizer in the 85th minute. Restivo showed why she was a Division III All-American and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Player of the Year for Johnson and Wales in the 2022 season.

The Fusion held a 2-1 lead late in the game, but were unable to hold on after a long pass got behind the defenders. Their attempt to clear the ball out was intercepted by Hannah McNulty, who rang the left post past diving Fusion keeper Erin Murphy. Murphy nearly recovered in time, but was unable to stop the well-placed, sliding shot into the top right corner from Restivo.

The Fusion found several chances in the closing minutes of the game, which included about five minutes of extra time. Mother Nature poured cold water all over the final scoring bid, saving the heaviest downpour of the day for last.

“I’d rather take a point than a loss,” said Head Coach John O’Connor following the game. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. I just think there were some crucial points where we didn’t make good decisions.”

It was Restivo who started the scoring in the game, as well. She broke free and found herself with only Murphy between her and the goal. Murphy attacked and got a piece of the ball while also sending Restivo tumbling, but was assessed a controversial foul in the goal box. Restivo buried the ensuing penalty kick to draw first blood in the 25th minute.

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That seemed to awaken the Fusion, though, as they would even things back up just a few minutes later. Blessing Kingsley, leading goal scorer for the Fusion last season, drew extra attention from the Rogue defenders all day, but found a surprising amount of space up the right wing. She sent a beautiful cross to Manchester-native Grace Pinkus standing just in front of the goal line, and Pinkus drove it home with a header to tie things up.

The Fusion controlled play for much of the second half, being awarded several free kicks in dangerous areas. It was a physical game that included three yellow cards against the Rogues. In the 71st minute, midfielder Alexia Moreira worked hard for some space and drew a foul at the top of the goal box to earn a penalty kick. Moreira buried it to give the Fusion their first lead of the day.

Despite the disappointing finish, O’Connor gave credit to the away team.

“I think they’re better than they were last year. They’ve added a couple of players. Brooke Jenkins – who played for us our first year – she makes a difference for them,” he said. “They went to Albany and won, so they feel good about that, and got a game under their belt. And we’ll be better next game, too.”

O’Connor said he expects to be sharper next time out, as the entire team isn’t in town yet, and those that are have only practiced together for a week.

“The hard part about it sometimes, trying to coach the concepts we want when you don’t have 26 (players) – we have 20 right now,” he said. “But I think they’ve done well with it, and I think we learned some lessons today. Better now than later… But I think we’re doing okay. We’ll be fine.”

The Fusion go on the road to play two games in three days, first against new expansion team Force FC in Warwick, N.Y., Friday, May 26, at 7 p.m. They’ll follow that up traveling to Albany to face the NY Shockers, 7p.m. on Sunday, May 28, before returning home for a 6 p.m. game with the Kingstown Capitals on Saturday, June 3.

Tory Rich can be reached at


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