I JUST WANT A RING
Zach Reget doesn't want for much in life, but there is one little item that he covets.
"I just want a ring," he says. "I just want a ring."
That would be a Major Arena Soccer League championship ring.
Reget and his Florida Tropics teammates have been doing their best in positioning themselves to win one.
They are close, but not close enough as they prepare to take on the San Diego Sockers in Game Two of the MASL Championship Series at Perchanga Arena San Diego on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
After recording a 6-3 triumph in Game One on Monday night, the defending champions Sockers need to win the game to take a victory lap with the Ron Newman Cup. The Tropics must win the 60-minute regulation match to force a 15-minute Extra Time Game.
It can be done, but foes have found it increasingly difficult to beat San Diego at home. The Sockers, who were 23-0-1 during the regular season, haven't lost at home since a 7-6 defeat to the Turlock Express on Nov. 24, 2019. Since then, the team is 20-0-1 at its venue.
When asked it will take to defeat the Sockers, Reget answered with some humor. "I'll take hints," he said before becoming serious.
"They're a good team," added Reget, who scored twice in the fourth quarter on Monday night. "They're having a lot of success the last couple of years. They're just one unit. Against a team like that you need to really capitalize and work on the small details.
"You can see that they're confident in all spots in the game. They're a well-oiled machine. So, it's definitely not going to be easy. We're up for that task. They've kind of been kicking us in the mouth. We got to stand up collectively. So, I'm hoping that it's this Sunday."
The Tropics ain't chopped liver themselves, having recorded the second-best regular season mark in the league (18-3-2) at as Eastern Division champions and scoring 179 goals, third best in the league, six behind the leader, Chihuahua Savage. Florida also is 46-9-2 over the last three regular seasons.
"We have talented players," Reget said. "Our day-to-day practices when we're all healthy is really strong and very competitive. When we get into that groove in the regular season, we have a point to prove. The club wants a ring and we're trying to translate that regular season success into the playoffs. We need to figure that out quickly."
Reget started playing soccer when he was three. Growing up in Kenosha, Wis., he competed in several sports, including baseball, basketball, football, and of course, soccer. He grew to love the latter and decided to pursue it to its fullest after performing for the Kenosha Crew and SC Waukesha.
"Everyone had their toy," he said. "For me it was just always a ball. My parents did a really good job of letting me pursue every sport I wanted at a high level and kind of figuring out which one I wanted to do because I knew that throughout my life, I would need sport just to compete.
"I found out soccer was my main passion and played that in high school along with basketball for four years. I had a pretty big growth spurt the end of my senior year of high school going into my freshman year of college. We strived to always play to glorify God. That was our culture at the time. So, it was good."
As a sports management major at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., Reget was a four-year starter, team captain and earned National Christian College Athletic Association All-America honors.
After college, Reget went indoors. He trialed with the Cedar Rapids Rampage. St. Louis head coach Hewerton Moreira liked what he saw, and Reget became a member of the team's practice squad for the 2017-18 campaign. When he got his opportunity the next season, Reget made sure he left very little to chance.
The 6-foot, 200-lb. forward turned into a quick study - because he studied the game.
"I would say I adapted pretty quickly," he said. "When I was growing up, I was always coached to not just play the game but to read the game. I was trying to figure out that mental aspect or learning space of the game more than anything, because if you can learn the game, you can slow the game down. You can know where people are supposed to be. It came from watching film in my rookie year. I watched a lot of film, not just our team but the teams that were competing for a championship at the time."
But it didn't come easy.
"It was it was very tough," Reget said. "By the time the game started to come around after preseason, I had my head on my shoulders instead of just running around."
Many players struggle early on and need at least a couple of years before they get acclimated to the indoor game. In his first season (2018-19), Reget tallied 22 goals and 10 assists en route to MASL rookie of the year honors.
"I credit a lot to the coaching staff at the Ambush and also some veteran players," he said. "That's where I started to learn the game. If you can be a sponge and get past the frustration as well trying to understand this game, you can learn a lot."
It didn't hurt that he had a partner in crime in midfielder Justin Stinson, living with his teammate for the season and working hard at practice.
"We got there early, we stayed late," Reget said. "We worked with Hewerton. It's all up to the player if they're willing to learn. If do that they'll see growth. But if you don't fully invest in that then it will take a couple of years."
Reget, who turns 27 on Saturday, May 7, was dealt by the Ambush to Florida for forward Andre Braithwaite prior to the 2019-20 season. Many indoor forwards don't come into their own until their 30s. This past season Reget finished with 27 goals and 16 assists, both personal bests. He also leads everyone in the playoffs with nine goals and 15 points.
Win or lose - and Reget's team wins most of the time - he is having the time of his life.
When asked about how much fun he is having, Reget replied, "I mean, I think fun is even an understatement. I'm so blessed to be doing this. It's not the grand stage, but it's a huge stage. I don't look at it as just a game. I look at it as a way of worship.
"I have a good relationship with the Lord, and I look at sport as a way of worshipping. He gave me this opportunity, and this is just my way of giving back to him. You play till the end. It doesn't matter about points or stats. Can I give my all every time? I like to tell myself to always play with a controlled rage and passion. It helps me, especially in these big games.”
Reget's goals are simple. and it keeps coming back to that ring he desires so much.
"I like rings," he said. "I want to be an impact player. I've always wanted to lead. I just want to lead a team by example. I want to write my name and my teammates' names in the history books. People can win first team; people can win second team or whatever. The awards are each year.
"But, if we got more rings on our fingers than the next guy, that's what matters. That's what we're doing this for. ... We're putting all this effort in. It's the best time of the year. You don't sleep you. You're so tunnel vision. I got 10 fingers,” he said, adding that winning that many championships was a long shot.
“But why not? Strive for it. If that means three or four, that means zero even., I am not going to change how I play. That's what I'm striving for. It's just bringing the franchise titles."
On Sunday night, we'll know if Zach Reget gets his wish and be prepared to get his ring finger sized.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. He can be reached via email at Michael@FrontRowSoccer.com. His book Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers, recently was published. It can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/2p8rzhpy.