'He's coming home' -- Tropics reaquire star forward Ricardo Diegues in trade with Utica

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. – One of the most popular and productive players in the history of the Florida Tropics is returning to the local franchise.

The Tropics have acquired forward Ricardo Diegues and midfielder Alencar Ventura-Junior from Utica City FC in exchange for forward Andrew Hoxie and midfielder Lucio Gonzaga.

Diegues was an original member of the Major Arena Soccer League Tropics when they debuted in 2016-17, and for a long time even after signing with Utica after the 2018-19 season was Florida’s all-time leading scorer before being eclipsed in goals and total points by his good friend and former linemate Victor Parreiras.

In three seasons with the Tropics, Diegues scored 69 goals and added 29 assists in just 57 games. His best season came in 2017-18 when he recorded 28 goals and 16 assists, both single season career highs. In 12 games with Utica in 2018-19, he scored 19 goals. He is expected to be approved by the Major Arena Soccer League to be available to play on Feb. 12 in Dallas.

“He’s one of the best targets in our league,” Florida Coach Clay Roberts said. “Obviously to get him back on our team, I’m thrilled for it. To see him connecting again with Victor and Ricardo and Bruno and Zach, that’s a pretty complete target line here. He’s a Tropic and he’s coming home.” 

Diegues is still second on the team’s all-time goals list. He is co-holder of a team record for most goals in a game with five, and his 28 markers in 2017-18 is still the team record for goals in one year.  Parreiras is currently the team’s current all-time leading scorer in goals (86) and total points (161).

He and Parreiras were college teammates at the University of Texas-Browsville, and started their MASL careers together there for the Barracudas in 2015-16, where in 10 games he scored 10 goals. They were teammates on the Lakeland Tropics USL team that earned a berth in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Villages defeated the Tropics 4-3 in a shootout, a game that still stands as one of the most memorable games indoor or outdoor in franchise history. 

Ventura,-Junior is no stranger to the indoor game, and in fact was a teammate with Tropics forward Zach Reget on the U.S. National Futsal team that played in the 2021 World Cup tournament. He has played a total of six games in the MASL, including three last year for Utica, showing great production with six goals scored. The 6-1, 180-pound midfielder also has dressed for Cedar Rapids and Turlock in MASL play. 

“He’s a talented player. He doesn’t have the laundry list of accolades in the indoor game, but his skill set is fantastic for this game,” Roberts said. “He’s got a great attitude, will be great in the locker room, so we’re excited to get him too. For me, it’s a great pick up.”

Tropics fans won’t get a chance to welcome Diegues back home until Florida’s next home game on Sunday, March 13, when they host the Tacoma Stars. In the interim, they will play five straight on the road, starting with a Feb. 12 date in Dallas against the Sidekicks.

For more information, visit fltropics.com.

Local fans can score free general admission to all of the team’s home games this winter thanks to its sponsors who are presenting the “Tropics Blitz”.

The “Tropics Blitz” will provide free general admission tickets  as a way of providing a great evening of family entertainment for parents and kids who have had their activities curtailed because of the ongoing pandemic.

Vehicles with two or more persons will pay $20 to park, and then be able to take their parking receipt to the RP Funding Center box office for the same number of free tickets to that day’s game as occupants in the vehicle. Single occupant vehicles will pay just $10 for parking. 

For more information, visit www.fltropics.com.