Tropics stun Shockers with fourth quarter rally

by Brian Ackley

About the only ones who believed were the Florida Tropics themselves.

The Major Arena Soccer League's newest franchise stunned one country's oldest and most storied franchises with five fourth period goals to hang a 6-5 loss on the San Diego Sockers at the Lakeland Center in Florida Friday night.

The stunning clincher came with just 31 seconds to play, and electrified the crowd of 2,048 as a  Ricardo Diegues bicycle kick proved to be the game winner. The Tropics trailed 4-1 early in the fourth, and appeared headed for defeat after not scoring on their only power play of the night.

But Diegues began the comeback, and Victor Rojas, who scored two goals on the night including the first in franchise history in the second period, brought the hosts to within 4-3, and the comeback was on in earnest.

Jowayne Laidley's individual effort got the Tropcis fourth goal, and J.P Reyes connected on the equalizer after Florida pulled it goalie for an extra attacker with under three minutes to go in the game.

“We felt throughout the game that if we could press a little high on their centers and force it they were making some turnovers, and on the third and fourth goals, it happened just like that,” Tropics Head Coach Clay Roberts said.

He added that the performance was important both on and off the field, being an expansion team.

“What a great introduction for the fans. They were loud and enthusiastic. We couldn't have asked for more from them or our guys,” Roberts added.  “I've said, if you come to a game, you'll be a fan for life. That game just proved it. That's one of the best indoor games I've seen. I couldn't be prouder of the guys and to reward our fans made it even more special.”

The Sockers, who suffered their first loss of the season after two wins at home, are considered one of the sport's historic juggernauts, having won 14 championships in their existence which dates back to the 1980s.

“It couldn't have happened any better. What a great game, great effort, great atmosphere, the crowd was rocking the whole game, but that fourth quarter was truly special,” added owner Andrew Haines. “We've said right from the start that our expectation is to win. Period. We believed when a lot of others didn't.”

The Tropics, 1-0, will go on the road for three straight, including a date next weekend against the defending MASL champion Baltimore Blast. After a Thanksgiving weekend doubleheader in Harrisburg and Syracuse, Florida will be back at the Lakeland Center Dec. 3 to host the Blast. Tickets are available online at All 20 games this season are also streamed live online on the MASL YouTube channel.