by Brian Ackley

ONTARIO, California  -- The Florida Tropics scored four unanswered goals in the second quarter – and then held the Ontario Fury scoreless for the entire second half – to pick upan important 6-3 win over the hosts Wednesday night in a Major Arena Soccer League game at Toyota Arena.

Florida came in atop the MASL standings at 8-3 (.727 winning percentage) while Ontario was in second at 5-2 (.714). Standings this season are based on winning percentage because teams are not able to play the same number of games due to varying Covid-19 restrictions in place in cities and states around the league.

A wide open first half saw the Tropics take a lead just 11 seconds into the game, lose thelead, and then score the last four goals of the second quarter to take a 6-3 lead to intermission.

Ian Bennett converted a goal-mouth scramble right after the opening kick to give the Tropics their fastest goal ever at the start of a road game. Vcmor Eligwe then got the first of his two goals to give Florida a 2-0 lead less than five minutes in.

The host Fury rallied for three straight to take a 3-2 lead early in the second, but Bennett’s second of the night started the four-goal rally, capped off when Anthony Arico found the mark with just 36 seconds to go before the break. In between, Eligwe who also had two assists, notched his second and Nate Bourdeau also scored for the Tropics.

Remarkably, that was it for scoring in the game. Ontario had much the better of play throughout the second half, outshooting the Tropics 13-3 in the final two periods, but some spectacular work by Tropics netminder Hugo Silva, and a little bit of good fortune from a crossbar and goalpost, kept the Fury from mounting a comeback.

It was the Tropics second win in a row against Ontario, after taming the Fury 8-7 in a game Feb. 21 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

The Tropics , now 9-3 (.750) , will conclude their regular season Thursday, March 11, in a neutral site game when they meet the Tacoma Stars in a 6 p.m. kickoff at Toyota Arena in Ontario. The game can be viewed on the MASL’s pay-per-view Facebook broadcast.

With a win, the Tropics would clinch first place in the MASL, and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs which start the last weekend in March.  Ontario can only overtake Florida for first if the Tropics lose tomorrow, and the Fury win both of their remaining games, one against San Diego and the other Tacoma.