"5 Things to Know" as Tropics get ready for home opener on Nov. 11 at SYKES FIeld

by Brian Ackley

>>The Nov. 11 home opener comes exactly 365 days – one year – after the Florida Tropics played their first ever game, which turned out to be one of their biggest wins of the year. The Tropics sent shock waves throughout the Major Arena Soccer League with a  scintillating 6-5 comeback win over the San Diego Sockers. Trailing 4-1 heading into the final quarter, the Tropics capped a furious rally when Ricardo Diegues scored a spectacular bicycle-kick style goal with just 31 seconds to play for the game winner.

>>The Cedar Rapids Rampage, like the Tropics, field an outdoor team in the summer months. Cedar Rapids United plays in the United Premier Soccer League, while the Lakeland Tropics play in the USL's Premier Development League.

>>Two members of the Rampage played key roles with the U.S. Men's National Arena Soccer Team, which competed in the World Cup event held in early October in Tunisa, where the U.S. team made the round of 16. The tournament was played on a mini-field, without dasher boards. Forward Gordy Gurson and defender Joshio Sandoval both represented the U.S. in the international tournament. Gurson was the Rampage's leading goal scorer last year with 23 markers, and was second overall on the team in scoring. Sandoval led Cedar Rapids in blocks with 25, and chipped in with four goals and seven assists.

>>If the Tropics are going to improve their solid 8-12 record from a year ago, they'll have to find more offense. Florida was next to last in the league in goals scored last year with 99. To that end, the top three scorers from a season ago – Diegues, Captain Freddy Moojen and Victor Parreiras – all return, and the Tropics signed one of the game's premier goal scorers, Maurico Salles, who in 161 career arena regular season and playoff games has scored 194 goals.

>> Maybe it's not exactly payback, but the Tropics are hoping to even the score against the Rampage, who hung the most lopsided defeat on Florida in its short history. Last New Year's Eve, Cedar Rapids took a 13-2 decision over the Tropics in the only previous meeting between the two teams. Cedar Rapids joined the MASL one year prior to the Tropics arrival in the league.

>> And a bonus “5 Things to know”, all active and retired military and all first responders from Central Florida can claim up to four free tickets for the opener, the Tropics way of thanking you all for your service on Veterans Day, as well as all those who risked their lives responding to emergencies during Hurricane Irma. See you on Nov. 11 at SYKES Field at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland!