Playoffs ho! Tropics earn post-season berth with 8-7 overtime win over Tacoma Stars

by Brian Ackley

TACOMA, Washington – The Florida Tropics rallied three times from a one-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Tacoma Stars, 8-7 in overtime Thursday night, assuring the Tropics of their first ever berth in the Major Arena Soccer League playoffs.

Ricardo Carvalho got the game winner on a back-post redirect goal set up by Lucio Gonzaga just 27 seconds into the extra session while on the power-play.

For Carvalho, the team's leading scorer, it was his second overtime winner of the season, after getting the OT winner in Baltimore earlier this year. It is the fourth overtime game the team has played this year, after never having one in their first three seasons, all on the road. They are 3-1 in extra time so far this year.

With the win, Florida improves to 16-2, and are now guaranteed to have one of the Eastern Conference's four post-season berths. The Tropics have six games remaining in the regular season, and will look to hold off Utica and Milwaukee for first place in the East.  The top finishing team in each conference gets to pick its first round playoff opponent from the remaining three qualifying teams.

“This is just the first of many goals we have set for ourselves this season,” Head Coach Clay Roberts said. “We'll enjoy this for a short period, but I know the team and organization as a whole are committed to much bigger things to come. We battled all night long tonight, as we have in all our games this season, and will continue to do so in the rest of our regular season and in the post-season.”

Carvalho and Guilherme each had two goals, while Lucas Montelares, Gonzaga, Drew Ruggles and Zach Reget also added goals for Florida. Reget's goal with 2:41 to play as the Tropics played with a sixth attacker forged a third tie score in the fourth quarter.

Lemar Neagle – whose blue card for boarding in the final minute of regulation allowed Florida to gain the main advantage – had a hat trick for the Stars who fell to 7-10.

The MASL playoffs will start the last weekend of March.

The two teams will tangle again Sunday, March 1 in Tacoma in a 5:05 p.m. PST start. The Tropics will then conclude this three-game road trip at Rochester on Friday, March 6 in a 7:05 p.m start.

Florida will return to the RP Funding Center to host the St. Louis Ambush – the first of three straight Sunday matinees at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland – in a 3:05 start March 8. For more information, including tickets and the team's new “Orange Access” monthly subscription plan, visit www.fltropics.com or call 863-240-0101.