LAKELAND, FL – An unlikely hero stepped forward Sunday afternoon in Lakeland as the Florida Tropics defeated the St. Louis Ambush, 6-4, to advance to the Major Arena Soccer League playoff semi-finals. 

Plant City graduate Jorge Navarette – who also won 67 games in goal during his fouryear career at nearby Southeastern University for Tropics coach Clay Roberts who also is head coach with the SEU Fire – got the start in goal for Florida, and was sensational in piloting the Tropics to the triumph. 

For Navarette, who signed with the Tropics in 2016 when the franchise was born, it was only the eighth game he has ever played in the MASL, and sixth career start. 

“Jorge has earned everything. He has played great for us when called upon this year, so there was never any doubting him or his abilities in starting him today,” Coach Clay Roberts said. “He has great heart, and determination and skills. He’s waited his turn and when the spotlight was brightest, he was at his best. 

“ St. Louis jumped to a 2-0 first quarter lead, but the comeback was sparked by Victor Parreiras on a pretty restart goal in the second quarter. Drew Ruggles followed that with a 50-footer from the yellow line to tie the game at 2-2. 

Trailing at intermission 3-2, the Tropics turned things on in the third quarter with consecutive goals by Ricardo Carvalho, Taylor Walter Bond and what turned out to be the game winner from Zach Reget, his fifth goal of the series. Junior Alencar scored when St. Louis went to a sixth attacker trailing by just 5-4 for the final Florida goal of the game. 

“We knew St. Louis would be gunning for us today, and we just had to grind it out,” Roberts added. “Our guys really fought through a lot to get the result we wanted, and hopefully we can rest for a day or two to see who our semi-final opponent will be.” 

The Tropics had defeated St. Louis 8-4 in St. Louis to take a 1-0 lead in games coming back to Lakeland Sunday. Had St. Louis won game two, the teams would have played a 15-minute mini game Sunday to decide who advanced. 

The semi-final opponent is yet to be determined, as are any dates, as all three additional quarterfinal series will conclude between now and Tuesday night in Kansas City. 

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