"IB 26" does it again! Bennett's OT goal lifts Tropics to thrilling 8-7 overtime win

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. – Ian Bennett is quickly becoming Central Florida’s newest sports star.

The Florida Tropics forward – on loan to the team from the Milwaukee Wave who are not playing in the Major Arena Soccer League’s 2021 season because of Cornoavirus restrictions in Wisconsin – scored his second consecutive hat-trick, and got the game winner at 5:02 of overtime to lift the Tropics to a thrilling 8-7 win over the Kansas City Comets Friday night at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. 

It was the first overtime win at the RP Funding Center in the team’s five-year history, and Bennett’s “golden goal” was the only time all game Florida had the lead. Twice the Comets had leads of three goals, – 3-0 early, and 7-4 in the second half – before scoring the last four goals of the game.

“We knew that they were laying back so we just said to the guys to keep shooting, keep being in position to be aggressive and good things would happen,” Florida Coach Clay Roberts. “It was a real gut check for us, and the guys responded in championship fashion, to come back from those deficits twice like we did. It wasn’t perfect, but what an entertaining night for our fans and the MASL as a whole.”

Kansas City got three goals from player coach Leo Gibson, and single scores from Lucas Souza, Adam James, Matt Lewis and Henry Ramirez, who missed a glorious opportunity to score two minutes into extra time, missing the mark with a wide open goal from 20 feet out. 

Victor Parrieras got his first of the year, and added two assists, for a three-point night. Guilherme scored twice, and Florida got lone markers from Ricardo Sobriera and Ricardo Carvalho.

Bennett had a hat trick last Sunday in Florida’s 7-5 win over the St. Louis Ambush, and now leads the MASL in goal scoring with six. He has been either a first or second team All MASL player in each of the last five years. 

The two teams will rematch Sunday at the RP Funding Center in a 3:05 start. Florida improved to 3-0 with the win, while Kansas City fell to 1-1. 

At present, 11 teams have committed to playing in the 2021 season, although that could still change depending on local restrictions related to the pandemic. Six teams are playing in January, with the remaining teams to join the mix in February. Teams will play between 12 and 24 games, with playoff seeding determined by overall winning percentage. 

The league is announcing schedules only a month at a time because of the pandemic restrictions, but the final games of the regular season will be played by April 18.

Single game tickets are available through the team’s Facebook page (click on the event link), or by calling 863-240-0101. Tickets will also be available gameday at the RP Funding Center box office. The team and arena have devised a socially distanced seating plan that can accommodate approximately 1,500 fans per game. Facial coverings will be required for those in attendance.