Big second half leads to 3-1 Tropics win, sets up showdown with SIMA Saturday at Bryant Stadium

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. –  Juan Tejada's magical season continues for the Lakeland Tropics.

The Eckerd College star scored late in the second half – his team leading sixth goal of the season – to lift the Tropics to a 3-1 win over FC Miami City Saturday night at Bryant Stadium.

The Tropics improved to 6-1-2, good for 20 points. The SIMA Aguilas, who visit Bryant Stadium next weekend, also are 6-1-2, meaning the home game Saturday will be for sole possession of the first place in the USL Premier Development League's southeast division. The Villages SC also won Saturday night, and are just three points back of the leaders.

Lakeland got on the board first late in the first half on a Ben Mendoza volley from about 25 yards out which deflected past Miami goalkeep Hugo Fauroux. It was Mendoza's first of the season.

However, as the World Cup has repeatedly reminded soccer fans, set pieces can be deadly, and Miami's top player, Kevin Coffic, picked up his second goal in his third game of the season in the 65th minute heading in a corner kick.

But Tejada's chip from about 20 yards out in the 76th minute proved to be the difference, assisted by Lucas Coutinho.

Miami played the final 10 minutes of regulation and stoppage time down two players, with red cards issued to Darren Rios in the 78th minute and Diego Hurtado in the 81st minute. Ricardo Diegues took advantage and netted the final goal, his fifth of the season, in the 90th minute.  It was the second win of the season for Lakeland over Miami, as the Tropics opened their season with a 3-2 road win in May.

Not only will next Saturday's game be for first place, the Tropics will also be looking for a little revenge. SIMA took a 2-0 decision two weeks ago in a game played in Montverde. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.tropicssoccer.com.