With winger in goal, Tropics battle and take UPSL consolation finals over Boise Cutthroats

by Brian Ackley

LOS ANGELES – The Florida Tropics came home with the United Premier Soccer League’s third-place title after scoring an unlikely win over the Boise Cutthroats Sunday.

The game was 1-1 through 120 minutes of regulation and overtime, with the Tropics taking the penalty kick round 4-3 to earn the consolation fin.

It was unlikely because the Tropics starting goaltender all season, Jorge Navarrete, was unable to play after being issued a red card in Friday’s national semi-finals. He and a forward from New York Contour United, who ended up winning 5-3, collided going after a fifty-fifty ball just outside the box, with Navarrete drawing the penalty.

Without a backup goalie making the long trip west, Florida turned to Rayan Lammers, who played as a winger the entire season including Friday night’s game, to start in goal.

“What an effort by our entire side, and especially Rayan who was pressed into unexpected duty in goal,” Coach J. P. Reyes said. “We just tightened everything down, did our jobs, and waited for opportunities to develop. It was in many ways our best effort and win of the season, and to come home with the consolation finals title is gratifying for all of us under the circumstances.”

After a scoreless first half, with the Tropics controlling much of the play, Florida took a 1-0 lead in the 66th minute when defender Andrew Claire moved forward and converted a corner kick chance.

Boise got the equalizer with less than five minutes to go in regulation when a shot from 15-yards out to the top right corner of the goal just eluded Lammers’ leap.

Neither team scored in overtime, sending the game to PK’s .

With Boise shooting first, each team successfully converted their first three shots, but incredibly, Lammers made back to back leg saves on the Cutthroats’ fourth and fifth tries. Meanwhile Evan Frimpong, who played 69 games with the Tampa Bay Rowdies several years back, converted his try for the final 4-3 edge in the shootout round.

For his heroics, Lammers earned a Gatorade bath and a ride off the pitch on his teammates' shoulders

"It's hard to overstate the challenge he was facing, and how he and the rest of the team just stepped up and would not be denied," Reyes added. "We've done that all year, and I'm as proud of that as I would be another league title."

It was Florida's second post-season win in penalty kicks, and among their six total victories in the playoffs, four were by one goal and another was in overtime.

The UPSL was founded in 2011 and currently includes more than 300 teams nationally. The UPSL is the fastest growing Pro Development League in the USA, with 400-plus teams targeted for 2021/22 Season. Each UPSL team is individually owned and operated, and is responsible for maintaining UPSL minimum standards at all tier levels.

UPSL teams are all eligible to participate in the U.S. Open Cup Qualifying Rounds through the leagues affiliation with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA).

Additional information regarding the UPSL can be found by following the league on social media via Facebook (www.facebook.com/upslsoccer), Instagram (@upslsoccer) and Twitter (@upslsoccer).

In addition to its outdoor side, the Tropics will start their sixth season in the Major Arena Soccer League late this fall at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, with a 2021-2022 schedule expected to be released in early fall.