Weekend preview: Tropics SC close out first half of season with two road games

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND – The Florida Tropics SC will end the first half of the 2016-17 Major Arena Soccer League season where they have spent most of their campaign so far, away from the Lakeland Center.

The Tropics will be on the road Friday, Dec. 30 and then have a New Year's Eve matinee in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 31, games nine and 10 of Florida's 20-game regular season schedule. Seven of the Tropics first 10 games this winter are on the road, and this is the third time so far this year that the Tropics will play back-to back weekend road games. On Thanksgiving weekend the Tropics lost in Harrisburg 7-4 on a Friday night, then won 7-6 in Syracuse 24-hours later. Two weeks later, on Dec 9 and 10, Florida lost 8-6 in St. Louis on a Friday, then fell in Baltimore 7-0.

The Tropics enter the weekend games with a 2-6 record, but just one game back in the win column behind divisional foes Syracuse and Harrisburg, both 3-4, who Florida is battling with for the second playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The Tropics last six regular season games will be split between those two teams.

This is the second of a home-and-home with the Comets. Kansas City nipped the Tropics, 6-4, Dec. 17 at the Lakeland Center. Florida rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 5-2, and appeared to have the tying goal with less than two minutes to play, but the goal was waved off by officials.

Saturday's game will be the first-ever meeting between the Tropics and Cedar Rapids Rampage, who lead the Central division at 7-2. Kansas City is in third place in the tough Central with a 5-3 record.

Florida is led by Ricardo Diegues, who has seven goals and three assists, and Freddy Moojen who has four goals and four assists. Kansas City's top scorer is Leo Gibson with nine goals and 13 assists, while the Rapids are paced by Gary Gurson's 12 goals and seven assists. Kansas City netminder Stephan Paterson is third in the league in goal's against average, and Cedar Rapids' Brett Petrick is ranked fifth, and leads the MASL with seven wins.

The road trip will mark the debut of the newest member of the Tropics, Robbie Aristidemo, a veteran indoor star who won three championships with the Baltimore Blast and has 87 goals and 111 assists in his career. He will wear number 20.

Friday night's start in Kansas City is set for 8:35 EST, while kickoff Saturday in Cedar Rapids will be at 3:05 EST. All Tropics games home and away can be viewed live at www.MASL.tv. The Tropics will return to the Lakeland Center Jan. 6 to start a seven-game homestand when they host the Dallas Sidekicks. Tickets are available at the team's website – www.fltropics.com – or by calling 863-333-5353. Through the end of the year, Tropics fans can get tickets for three home games for just $20 by calling the Tropics office.