Tropics still perfect on opening night as they trip up Baltimore Blast, 7-6
TOWSON, Maryland –If only every night was opening night in the Major Arena Soccer League for the Florida Tropics.
The Tropics have never lost in the first game of a new season, and that streak reached seven Saturday night in Baltimore as the Tropics held on for a wild 7-6 win against Blast, in advance of Florida’s home opener next Saturday, Dec. 17 against Utica.
Defender Drew Ruggles scored three goals, including one on a restart from the top of the arc with just 1:36 to play in the game that proved to be the game winner. He took a pass from Captain Victor Parreiras deep in the right corner, took an extra roll of the ball towards the top of the box, and ripped a shot past Blast netminder William Vanzela to play the role of hero. Ruggles – who despite being a defender was fourth on the team in scoring last year with 26 points -- also added an assist to lead all Florida scorers with four points.
Ricardo Carvalho scored twice, with Chad Vandegriffe and Zach Reget adding the other Tropics goals. Parreiras had three assists, giving him 101 now in his Florida career, a team record. Chad Vandegriffe, the defending MASL Defender of the Year, had four of the team’s 15 blocked shots to eclipse the 200 shots blocked (201) mark in his MASL career.
Luis Roque had his second straight three-goal game to lead Baltimore, who had opened their 2022-23 season with an 8-7 home win over Utica last week. The two teams combined for seven goals in the fourth quarter, after scoring only six combined in the first three. The Tropics never actually trailed in the game, but never led by more than two goals at any point. Three times Baltimore tied the score – including with 2:15 to play on a sixth-attacker goal by former Tropic Ricardinho Sobreira – but Florida had an answer every time.
Florida’s Jorge Navarrete, who played at Plant City High School and Southeastern University, was solid in getting the win in goal as the Blast out shot the Tropics, 33-28. Navarrete was credited with 12 saves.
“Great defensive effort. To get 15 blocks is really a good showing by everyone on our team. A true team victory,” Head Coach Clay Roberts said. “This is a really tough place to win with the small field, and Baltimore has a really good roster again, so we have to be happy to get the result we got.”
The Tropics will head home for four of their next five games, including the home opener on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 5:05 p.m. against Utica City FC. The Blast will visit the RP Funding Center for back-to-back games on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 for 7:05 p.m. kickoffs, and the Chihuahua (Mexico) Savage will be in Lakeland for a Dec. 30 start. Florida will also be at Utica on Wednesday, Dec. 28.
Home game tickets are available starting at just $7 per game by calling the arena box office at 863-834-8111. Although tickets are also available online at www.rpfundingcenter.com, service fees are significantly higher through Ticketmaster as opposed to calling the box office directly.