Curtain falls on Tropics 2021 season as San Diego drops Florida 4-3 in MASL semi-finals
by Brian Ackley
INDEPENDENCE, Missouri – The Florida Tropics have exited the Major Arena Soccer League playoffs the same way they entered it – still looking for their first-ever post-season win.
The San Diego Sockers finished Florida’s season Saturday afternoon in Kansas City with a 4-3 win over the Tropics, winning both games in the series to advance to the league finals next weekend either in Kansas City or Ontario, California.
In their five year history, this was the first season Florida has made the MASL playoffs. They won the Eastern Conference title in the 2019-20 season, but the post-season was wiped out by the national Covid-19 outbreak.
This season, the Tropics won the regular season title with a 10-3 mark, and had a first-round playoff bye this year before meeting San Diego, who Saturday was playing in the franchise’s 196th post-season game. San Diego won the first game of the series, 5-4, in overtime on Thursday night. Florida took the lead with 2:35 to play, but gave up the equalizer a minute later which forced the extra session.
Another slow start doomed Florida. The Tropics managed just two total goals in the first six quarters combined of the two games, and trailed 2-1 going into the final quarter Saturday.
It was a 2-0 game at halftime, and Florida barely created any bonafide scoring chances, and in fact didn’t even generate a shot in goal in the first quarter. San Diego’s Brandon Escoto scored with 37 seconds to go in the first quarter, and the Sockers got a power play marker with just 85 seconds to go before halftime from Kraig Chiles.
Ian Bennett got a power-play header goal in the third, but San Diego’s Leonardo De Olivera got a power play goal six minutes into the fourth to increase the Sockers lead to 3-1.
The Tropics rallied with a goal by Zack Reget at the 8:47 mark of the fourth, and Bennett’s second of the game tied it with 2:25 to play. The Sockers got the game winner just 30 seconds later on a quick counter started on an outlet pass from goalkeeper William Vanzela finished by Christian Guitierez, who also got the game winner in overtime Thursday.
Florida took 40 shots in the game, 30 in the second half, while San Diego managed just 16 shots on goal, with Hugo Silva taking the loss.
The Tropics will continue play in the United Premier Soccer League this spring and summer, with several of its MASL stars expected to join the lineup of the outdoor team that plays its home games at the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale.
The UPSL team is the defending national spring season champions, and will be in action next on April 10 on the road against Naples FC before returning home to meet the St. Petersburg Aztecs in a 7 p.m. start. Admission to the game is free; there is $10 parking charge for single-occupant vehicles and $20 for multi-occupant vehicles.
For more information year round on the teams, visit www.fltropics.com.