by BJ Rinaldo

LAKELAND, Fla. – One of the longest-tenured members of the Florida Tropics will be returning to the Major Arena Soccer League team on a new two-year deal.

Rafa Alves, who joined the club during its first-ever season in 2016-17, has agreed to terms after becoming a free agent at the end of last season when the Tropics advanced to the MASL Championship series. Per team and league guidelines, no additional contract information will be released.
Alves appeared in seven games in Florida’s inaugural season and has now dressed for 67 regular season and playoff games, with 12 goals, seven assists, and 58 shots blocked.
He had career highs in goals (four) and total points (6) in 10 games for Florida this past year.

Alves was a standout outdoor player before joining the Tropics, and Head Coach Clay Roberts said the transition indoors has been steady and impressive.

“What you see is Rafa’s positive impact on our team from years of watching and playing and learning, Roberts noted. “To have a strong presence on the back line is key when you’re playing people like Franck Tayou or Vini Dantas. He’s a great player, his growth over the years has been tremendous because he chose to learn the indoor game. He was a Top 11 player in the NASL at one point and played at a very high level. For him to have success in the indoor game speaks to his quality as a player and a person.”

Alves joined the arena team after four strong years in the North American Soccer League, and most recently as a defender for Juventude, a second-division (Serie B) club in Brazil which has also played in past years in Serie A, the country's top league.

“I decided to stay with the Tropics because I’ve seen the entire evolution of the club. This will be my sixth season and I’m sure we are very close to our biggest goal, which is to be champions,” Alves said. “We have a great base of players who have been together for a few years, an excellent coach who knows the league very well, and all the necessary support from the front office to continue to compete at a high level. I have created a special identity with this club and I didn’t think of any other possibility than to stay.”
He appeared in 67 NASL games from 2013-2016, including 35 for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and 32 for the Ottawa Fury. His best offensive season came in 2015 with Ottawa where he had four goals and two assists. He also earned Player of the Week honors that season as the Fury won the NASL fall championship. He also served as captain of the Brazilian Mini-Football team in the 2017 World Cup.

The Tropics – who advanced for the first time in team history to the MASL championship finals last spring – will start their seventh season in the league this fall at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. For more information, visit