Tropics set team record for blocks, move into second in East with 5-3 win over KC

by Florida Tropics

LAKELAND, Fla -- The Florida Tropics played perhaps their finest game of the season Sunday afternoon, piling up a team-record 24 blocked shots, as they moved into sole possession of second place in the East Division of the Major Arena Soccer League with a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Comets. 

Both teams came into Sunday's game at the RP Funding Center with 23 points, seven behind the first-place Milwaukee Wave. With the win, Florida improves to 26 points, and moved to within four points of the Wave who lost in Utica Sunday, 7-5. 

"That was Tropics soccer. We looked like the team we know we are and want to be over the final third of the regular season. Great defensive effort and we generated lots and lots of chances even though we didn't convert quite as well as we would have liked," Head Coach Clay Roberts said. "I challenged them before the game to leave it all on the field this afternoon, and that's exactly what every single player on the roster did. A true team effort that should be a big boost to our confidence going forward." 

Kansas City led just once the entire game on a first-quarter goal by Lucas Sousa, but Florida scored the next three -- from Ricardo Diegues, Anthony Arico and Kiel Williams -- before KC rallied to make it a 3-3 game at just under two minutes to play in the third. 

But Florida netminder Jorge Navarette was big in goal as Kansas City (7-5-4) peppered him with 38 shots, but the Comets, who scored 12 goals in a home win last week against Florida, were held scoreless over the game's final 17 minutes. 

Drew Ruggles, a defender, got the game-winner just over three minutes into the fourth. Ruggles, since joining Florida, now has nine game-winning goals, second most in team history. Thiago Freitas added an insurance marker with 2:35 to play. Florida had 24 shots on goal. The only player on either side to have a multi-point game was the Tropics' Breno Olivera who had two assists. 

The Tropics previous team record for shots blocked in a game was 21 against the RGV Barracudas on Nov. 4, 2017. Rafa Alves, who came into the game with the third most blocked shots in the league, and Chad Vandegriffe, the reigning MASL Defender of the Year who came in fourth in the league in blocked shots this season, led the way with five stops each. 

Florida (8-6-2) will stay home at meet the Tacoma Stars next Sunday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Kickoff will be 3:05 p.m. Tickets, starting as low as $7 which includes service fees, can be purchased by calling the arena box office at 863-834-8111 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets will also be available at the box office on game day.