Weekend preview: Let's play two! Tropics SC will host rival St. Louis Friday, Sunday

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND – The Florida Tropics SC will look for another franchise first this weekend – a winning streak – when they host the rival St. Louis Ambush in two Major Arena Soccer League games at the Lakeland Center. The first game is Friday night, with a 7:35 p.m. EST. kickoff, and the second is on Sunday with a 5:35 p.m. EST start.

Although the cities are 1,000 miles apart, the two teams have reasons to already make this a heated rivalry. Tropics owner Andrew Haines owned the St. Louis franchise for the last three years before selling his interest in the club and bringing a team to Lakeland.

The Tropics also formed their nucleus with former Ambush players, including Freddy Moojen, Anthony Arico and Piotr Sliwa, who all played in St. Louis last season. Moojen, the Tropics captain and assistant coach, is Florida's leading scorer with eight goals and six assists. He is coming off his best performance of the season, three goals and an assist, in the Tropics 8-6 win over Dallas last Friday. Arico, who missed last weekend's game against Dallas, will be back in the lineup this weekend and is the team's third leading scorer. And Sliwa has all four of Florida's wins in goal.

Lastly, the Tropics will seek revenge against the Ambush. Florida played one of its best two quarters of the season in St. Louis on Dec. 9, and took a 5-2 lead to intermission, only to see the Ambush storm back to win their lone game of the season so far, 8-6. St. Louis comes into the weekend doubleheader with a mark of 1-9, while Florida is 4-7. St. Louis is one of five teams in the MASL still looking for their first road win.

Richard Schmermund leads the St. Louis offense with seven goals and two assists for nine points. Corey Adamson, Mitchell Garcia and Stefan St. Louis are tied for second in team scoring with seven points each. Adamson is second on the team in goal scoring with six.

Ricardo Diegues, Florida's leading scorer coming into last weekend, is expected to miss his second straight game, and likely won't be back in the Tropics' lineup until next month, after suffering a hamstring injury New Year's eve in Cedar Rapids.

The Ambush have a goal differential this year of minus-31, while Florida is at minus-30. One area the Tropics hope to improve on is their power play, which is operating with an efficiency of just 12 percent. Their penalty-kill, however, has been solid, with a 55 percent rating. St. Louis is converting 25 percent of its man advantage situations, and has a penalty-kill rate of 56 percent.

Tickets for the game are available at www.fltropics.com, or by calling 863-333-5353. All Tropics games home and away are broadcast free of charge at www.masl.tv. This is the second and third games of a seven-game homestand. Next up, Jan. 27, will be a visit by the Kansas City Comets.