by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. – The Florida Tropics have added one of the Major Arena Soccer League's premier scorers, inking Mauricio Salles to a contract,for the 2017-18 season, pending final league approval.

Salles has appeared in 160 career arena games, and has scored 195 goals to go along with 98 assists, playing for the Detroit Ignition, Rochester Lancers, Ontario Fury and Soles de Sonora.

Most recently, he split time last year with Ontario before joining Sonora, helping lead the Mexico-based team to the MASL championship series.

His best season came in 2014-15, when he had 40 goals in 20 games for the Rochester Lancers. Two years ago with Ontario, he was a 30-goal scorer. Last year, in 17 games, he had 18 goals, but had seven playoff goals in seven playoff games for Sonora.

“It's exciting to be able to add such a talented, big, experienced target forward as Mauricio. One of the keys to our offseason was making sure we built a second scoring line as explosive and potent as our first unit, and no doubt Mauricio will allow us to do just that,” Head Coach Clay Roberts said. “He's an exceptional finisher, exactly the type of player we need to take the next step in our second year.”

Roberts and Salles will be joining forces for the second time. Roberts was Director of Soccer for VSI Tampa Bay in the USL with Salles on his roster. He had four goals in one game during that campaign.

Salles said he's looking forward to helping the Tropics improve on last season's 8-12 mark, a year in which Florida was alive for a playoff spot right down to the final weekend of the regular season.

“The Tropics have already showed they have great ambition to become one of the best teams in the MASL,” he said. “The life of an athlete is moved by challenges, and I want to help the club to do that. I'm very happy to be a Tropics player now and to be reunited with Coach Roberts.”

Being such a prolific goal scorer is no accident.

“I'm always moving and looking to find space or find teammates in places where they can score,” he noted. “You've got to always move and create spaces for yourself and your teammates., and think fast.”

And as a veteran of the MASL, he's impressed with what's going on league-wide.

“It's great to see the league growing and be part of this growing process; more teams joining the league, teams in Mexico, next year in Canada, more fans, so it's great. It's the result of hard work from everybody involved,” Salles added.

 The Tropics will open their second home season at Lakeland's RP Funding Center on Saturday, Nov. 18. A complete 22-game Major Arena Soccer League schedule will be released later this summer.