Tropics can now officially call Lakeland Center home

by Brian Ackley

The dasher boards are up, and the Astroturf is down. The Florida Tropics SC can officially call the Lakeland Center home after practicing there Monday night in preparation for the team's Major Arena Soccer League season opener Friday night against the San Diego Sockers.

Part of last night's session was a scrimmage against an indoor club team from Orlando.

“It's the first time we've actually played in a full-sized arena with boards. It's nice to get in here and not go cold turkey against San Diego. We're not far off. This was actually a fantastic game for our young players to get to experience, feel the speed of it, and get the actual movement and the space of the game. Each quarter got a little bit better, a little bit more controlled and we created a ton of chances," Head Coach Clay Roberts said. "We're going to be an offensive team. I think we'll be able to produce goals.  You've got to score to win, and that's what indoors is all about. Fans want to see goals. It's about opportunities going forward, and some tactical management in there as well.”

Among those who did take to the Lakeland Center turf was veteran forward Freddy Moojen and starting netminder Piotr Sliwa, both of whom suited up for the MASL St. Louis Ambush last season. Tickets for the home opener are available by calling 863-333-5353, or online at

This past summer, Moojen,won the Golden Boot award for most goals scored in the CONCACAF Fustal championships while playing for the Canadian National team. Two years ago, Moojen connected for 41 goals for the MASL Dallas Sidekicks. Last season, while fighting injuries, he netted 10 goals.

The Sockers will bring east a 2-0 record, with wins over Turlock and most recently, an 8-4 win last Saturday against the Dallas Sidekicks. They are led by Kraig Chiles, who is closing in on the all-time goal scoring lead for the storied franchise. He has five goals this season.

The team will continue with daily practice sessions at the Lakeland Center leading up to the season opener this weekend.  All 20 Tropics game will be broadcast live online, starting  with Friday night's contest that kicks off at 7:35 p.m., and can be accessed via the team's website.