by Brian Ackley/Tropics

LAKELAND, Fla – On Sunday, it was the Florida Tropics “young guns” to the rescue. 

Led by two second half goals by Bruno Henrique, and a pair of first half goals by Victor Parreiras, the Tropics improved to 5-1 on the young Major Arena Soccer League season with a 6-2 win over Utica City FC at the RP Funding Center. 

Enrique was an All MASL Rookie Team selection after last season, and now has four goals and seven points in five games on the current season. Just before Henrique closed out the scoring with back-to-back markers, Ben Espinal gave Florida a 4-2 lead. The Palmetto native was making his MASL debut. 

Both players had standout careers at nearby Southeastern University where Tropics coach Clay Roberts is also the men’s soccer coach. 

“They’re my guys. I know them so well, and know I can trust them out there to make good decisions, and play with heart and hustle on every shift,” Roberts said. “When you do that, good things can happen in the indoor game.” 

Espinal said having such a veteran core, and Roberts behind the bench, made his debut easier than expected, despite a few pre-game butterflies. 

“Coach just said it’s a game of mistakes and not to worry, we’ll coach you through them,” Espinal said. “Him having that kind of confidence in our young guys in return makes us feel confident we can go out and contribute.” 

Parreiras reached a career milestone with his first of the game, just 41 seconds into the first quarter. It was his 100th career regular season goal for the team captain, one of the few original players remaining from the teams’ inaugural season in 2016-17. Parreiras, the team’s all time leading goal scorer and leader in total points, also added an assist. 

Drew Ruggles added the other Florida goal, and also picked up an assist. Hugo Silva was strong in goal, especially in the second half, and got the win despite Utica out shooting the hosts 32-35. 

Utica, which lost 10-3 to the Tropics in Lakeland on Jan. 2, never led in either of the two games. Their goals came from Moises Gonzalez and Bo Jelovac. 

The Tropics, atop the MASL’s eastern division with 15 points, will host the Harrisburg Heat for a weekend doubleheader Jan. 14 and 16 at the RP Funding Center with Friday’s start at 7:05 p.m. and Sunday’s game set to kickoff at 3:05 p.m. 

The games will be broadcast live on the MASL’s YouTube channel starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, with kickoff set for 3:05 p.m. The game will also be broadcast live on the “For the Fans” network available on DirecTV (Channel 623) and many cable and streaming services such as AT&T Uverse, Verizon Fios and Roku. 

Local fans can score free general admission to all of the team’s home games this winter thanks to its sponsors who are presenting the “Tropics Blitz”. 

The “Tropics Blitz” will provide free general admission tickets as a way of providing a great evening of family entertainment for parents and kids who have had their activities curtailed because of the ongoing pandemic. Vehicles with two or more persons will pay $20 to park, and then be able to take their parking receipt to the RP Funding Center box office for the same number of free tickets to that day’s game as occupants in the vehicle. Single occupant vehicles will pay just $10 for parking. 

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