An old friend spoils the party as OT goal by Tavernese sinks Florida, 5-4

by Brian Ackley

UTICA, N.Y. – An old friend spoiled the party Sunday when Joey Tavernese scored on the  power play just 27 seconds into overtime as Utica City FC defeated the Florida Tropics 5-4 in Major Arena Soccer League action.

Tavernese played two seasons for Florida before joining Utica (8-16-0) as a free agent at the end of last year.  It was the second overtime road loss of the season for Florida, who also fell in a shootout in Dallas in February. 

Despite picking up one point for the OT loss, it was still a damaging result in terms of trying to overcome the San Diego Sockers for the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming MASL playoffs.

The Tropics are guaranteed of being no worse than the No 2 seed overall. Currently San Diego, who does not have a regulation loss at all this season, has 60 points and Florida has 53 with three games remaining. The two teams meet Thursday night in San Diego, with Florida meeting Ontario the prior evening. The Tropics will need at least one point in Ontario to stay mathematically alive. The Sockers would guarantee themselves the No. 1 seed with a win Thursday.

On Sunday, The Tropics (17-2-2) had leads of 1-0 and 3-2 before needing a goal from Zach Reget with 2:03 to go in the fourth period to tie the game at 4-4. Victor Parreiras had two goals, and assisted on Florida’s other goal by Drew Ruggles.

The MASL playoffs are expected to start the weekend of April 8-10, and Florida will play at least one home postseason game for the first time in team history. The Tropics would have qualified for their first ever postseason in 2019-20 when they were 18-3, and declared Eastern Conference champions, when the last three regular season games and all the playoffs were canceled because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Last year, the Tropics won the MASL’s regular season championship, but fell in the first round in two neutral site games against the eventual champion San Diego Sockers. Each series in the MASL post-season is a home-and-home, with the 15-minute mini game played at the conclusion of game two if the two teams split the first two contests. 

After the midweek games out west. Florida will return to the RP Funding Center in Lakeland for the conclusion of the regular season in meeting the playoff-bound Baltimore Blast on April 3 in a 3:05 p.m. start. .

All remaining games will be streamed live on the Twitch app, which recently became the exclusive provider of MASL games online. Games will no longer appear on the MASL YouTube channel.