Game Preview: Dallas Sidekicks visit to open long stretch of home games at Lakeland Center

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND – After playing seven of its first 10 games on the road, the Major Arena Soccer League Florida Tropics SC will be looking forward to seven straight games at the Lakeland Center, starring with Friday night's visit by the Dallas Sidekicks.

The Sidekicks are one of the sport's most historic and iconic franchises, first taking the field in 1984 in the original Major Indoor Soccer League, featuring one of the game's all-time greats, Tatu, who actually has a connection to the Lakeland Center.

During the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1983-84 indoor NASL season, Tatu scored four goals as a member of the Rowdies in a 12-6 win over the  New York Cosmos on Jan. 13, 1984. He totaled 49 goals in 30 games that season and went on to score 857 career goals in his 21-year career, second most in the history of indoor soccer. Tampa Bay played three games in Lakeland that year because of scheduling conflicts with their usual home arena in Tampa.

The Tropics are coming home off a split of two road games on the New Year's Eve weekend. On Dec. 30, they defeated Kansas City, 8-7, behind the three-goal effort of leading scorer Ricardo Diegues and two short-handed goals. The following afternoon, however, Cedar Rapids hung the most lopsided loss of the season on the first-year team, 13-2, leaving Florida 3-7 overall this season, in last place of the eastern division.

Despite that, they are just one game back in the win column from Harrisburg, who is second place in the division, and the Heat and Tropics will play three more times in the regular season.

Diegues has 10 goals and three assist to lead the team in scoring. Freddy Moojen has five goals and five assists for 10 points on a team-high 57 shots, second overall in team scoring.

Dallas comes in with a record of 4-6, and are led by Cameron Brown (18 goals, 8 assists), who has scored at least one goal now in 21 straight Sidekicks games, and Jamie Lovegrove (13 goals, 6 assists).  Brown's goal streak is a franchise record, breaking the mark of 20 straight games with a goal held by Tatu.

Tickets for the game are available online at, or by calling 863-333-5353. Fans can also call through Friday to get tickets to three Tropics games for just $20!  All Tropics games home and away are available to watch free of charge at The St. Louis Ambush will come to Florida for a double-header weekend with games Friday, Jan. 13 (7:35 p.m.) and Sunday, Jan. 15 (5:35 p.m.).