Missed early chances haunt Tropics in 2-0 loss to Villages SC

by Brian Ackley

THE VILLAGES – The top of the table in the USL Premier Development League's southeast division got plenty tighter Saturday night as The Villages SC blanked the Lakeland Tropics, 2-0.

The Tropics came into the game in first place, but fell to 8-2-2 (26 points) with two games to go. The SIMA Aguilas came into play Saturday with a 7-2-2 mark (23 points) while The Villages SC improved to 7-2-3 (24 points), also with two games remaining. SIMA was playing on the road against North County United Saturday night.

Had Lakeland won, they would have clinched their first-ever playoff berth. They do still control their own destiny, however, as wins next week on the road at IMG Academy Bradenton on July 10 and at home July 14 against Weston FC would clinch a spot in the post season. Only the top two teams in the southeast qualify for the playoffs.

Saturday's game was truly a tale of two halves. Lakeland was much the better side in the first 45 minutes and easily outchanced the host Buffalo, but the exact opposite was true in the second half before an enthusiastic gathering of both Tropics and Villages SC supporters.

Tropics forward Raheem Taylor-Parkes had two of the most glorious chances, sent in clean in the 22nd minute only to miss the frame. In the 40th minute, Village goalkeep Tim McGlynn made his best stop of the game, getting a hand on Parkes' shot from 15-yards out.

The Villages got on the board in the 47th minute on a brilliant individual effort by Leonardo Paiva, out dueling three Tropics defenders to set up  Gabriel Cabral for the tap in. In the 65th minute Eric Bastos headed in a corner to close out the scoring.

Both Tropics losses this year were shutouts. Lakeland's second leading scorer Ricardo Diegues did not dress, after having played only sparingly in the last few contests.

The July 10 kickoff at IMG is at 5 p.m., while the home finale on SYKES Field at Bryant Stadium July 14 is set for 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.tropicssoccer.com.