High energy, big smile, meet the Lakeland Tropics leading goal-getter Juan Tejada

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. – There are two tings you immediately notice about Juan Tejada when's on the soccer pitch.

One is the seemingly unending energy he zips up and down the field with, and the second is the mega-watt smile every time he scores a goal.

Fortunately for Lakeland Tropics fans, they've seen that smile plenty so far this season. With his game-tying score in the 65th minute of last weekend's 1-1 tie with The Villages SC, the Eckerd College star has taken over the team lead in goals this year with five.

He was no slouch around the net last year for the Tropics, with five goals in 13 games played, good for third on the team. But this year, with no Victor Rojas on the roster (second in goals last year with six), and Victor Parreiras on the sideline injured (three goals and 10 assists last year), Tejada's significant uptick in production couldn't have come at a better time.

“I think with Juan, no matter the situation, his level is always really, really high, elite, in terms of his attitude, how he trains, and that is reflected on game days” Coach Eoghan Conlan said. “The level he trains at, the intensity he brings, it's what we expect from all our players. He's relentless, and that's a characteristic that you need for sure to get to the next level.”

In three years at Eckerd, the Panama City, Panama native has 16 goals, including a team leading 11 scores as a sophomore, and four last season in which he missed time because of injury.

“The experience I had last year has helped me a lot to improve,” Tejada noted. “And we have a more talented group. That has helped me to perform.”

And about that 90-minutes worth of speed and determination every game? He has a ready explanation for the that too.

“Since I was a little kid, because I was very small, I'd be the smallest kid playing football, so I had to work almost twice as hard as the biggest kids so that's why I always try to work hard and keep running,” he noted.

The Tropics are at home for their next two matches, a June 23 start against FC Miami City and a huge June 30 showdown with the SIMA Aguilas, who are tied with Lakeland for first in the USL Premier Development League's southeast division. Both kickoffs are set for 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.tropicssoccer.com.