First-place Tropics set for key road game Saturday against Villages SC who have playoff hopes too

by Brian Ackley

THE VILLAGES – The Lakeland Tropics will look to defend their top spot in the southeast division of the USL Premier Development League Saturday night when they hit the road to take on The Villages SC.

Lakeland, at 8-1-2, is atop the division table with 26 points, followed by the SIMA Aguilas (7-2-2, 23 points) and The Villages SC (6-2-3, 21 points.) Heading into weekend play, each team has only three regular-season games remaining, and only the top two finishers in the division earn a spot in the PDL playoffs.

The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie at Bryant Stadium on June 16. Team scoring leader Juan Tejada got the equalizer in the 65th minute. He leads Lakeland with eight goals this season, including a two-goal effort earlier this week in a 4-0 road win over Next Academy Palm Beach.

The Villages, who along with the Tropics and two other southeast division teams earned invitations to this years Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, come in following a 3-1 road win Tuesday against FC Miami City. Leonardo Paiva is the Buffalos leading scorer this season with six goals.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the match is scheduled to be live streamed on the The Villages SC Youtube channel. With a win, Lakeland would clinch its first-ever playoff berth.

The Tropics will conclude three straight on the road with a visit to IMG Academy Bradenton on July 10 for a 5 p.m. start, and then wrap up the regular season at home Saturday, July 14 in a 7 p.m. start against Weston FC. For more information, go to www.tropicssoccer.com.