LAKELAND, FL. – For the first time in their six-year history, the Florida Tropics will be playing for a Major Arena Soccer League championship. 

The Tropics won both Game Two, and the subsequent 15-minute Extra Time game, by identical 4-2 scores to move on to the finals against either the San Diego Sockers or Chihuahua (Mexico) Savage. 

The Tropics dropped game one of the series in Kansas City last weekend, 8-7, so needed to win Game Two Saturday night at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland to force the 15- minute extra time that would decide Florida’s fate. 

Ricardo Diegues scored just 35 seconds into the mini-game, and the Tropics never trailed, although twice the Comets cut the Florida lead to one goal in the extra time game. Zach Reget scored the Tropics second goal, and Diegues got the game winner with 10 minutes still to play to put the Tropics on top 3-1. Anthony Arico scored in the final seconds to put the final at 4-2. 

The star of the night, however, was Florida goalkeeper Rainer Hauss, who was spectacular. Kansas City out shot the Tropics 30-14 in Game Two, and 10-8 in the minigame, but Hauss repeatedly came up big, including stopping a shootout late in the fourth quarter of Game Two to preserve the win. 

“We knew it would be a matter of who made the biggest plays defensively and in goal,” Florida Coach Clay Roberts said. “Rainer was great, and so was our entire team. Our defense was strong from start to finish, and our forwards repeatedly got behind the ball and blocked shots and passing lanes. That was the difference.“ 

The Tropics took an early 2-0 lead in Game Two, on first quarter goals by Victor Parreiras and Dew Ruggles. Second half goals by Ricardo Carvalho and Breno Oliveria sealed the win to force the extra-time mini game. 

Kansas City got goals from John Sosa and Milos Vucic,. Other than at the start of both games, the Comets were never tied or in the lead in either contest. Rian Marques got both Comets’ goals in the mini-game. 

San Diego and Chihuahua will play Sunday evening in San Diego. The defending champion Sockers – who knocked Florida out of last year’s MASL playoffs – face the same task as the Tropics. The Savage took game one in Mexico last weekend, so San Diego will have to win Game Two and an extra time mini-game at home to advance. 

Once the Tropics know who their opponent will be, dates and locations for the finals – also a best-of-two with an Extra Time game if needed format – will be announced. San Diego would have home field advantage if they advance, but the Tropics would have home field if Chihuahua wins. 

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