Playoff push starts Wednesday with three straight road games starting with Next Academy

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND – The Lakeland Tropics push to the post-season will include three straight road game starting Wednesday night, July 4. when the team meets up with Next Academy Palm Beach. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.

Lakeland is 7-1-2, good for 23 points with four games left in the regular season. The SIMA Aguilas sit in second at 7-2-2, also with 23 points, but with only three regular season games left. The Villages SC sit third with a 5-2-3 mark, good for 18 points. Lakeland will be on the road Saturday to take on the third place club. Only the top two teams in the USL Premier Development League's southeast division qualify for the post season.

The Tropics defeated Next Academy 1-0 in their season opener on May 12 on SYKES Field at Bryant Stadium. Ricardo Diegues got the game's only goal, the first in what was a four-game scoring streak for the team captain. Juan Tejada continues to lead the team in goals with six.

It was also the first of four clean sheets for netminder Gustavo Vasconcelos, who got his latest shutout last Saturday in the Tropics huge 1-0 win over SIMA on SYKES Field. That game also marked the return of Victor Parreiras, who has been out since March following knee surgery. Parreiras came in as a sub in the 55th minute, and scored the game winner 13 minutes later.

The three-game road trip will conclude July 10 with a visit to Bradenton's IMG Academy before the home and regular season finale July 14 against Weston FC. For more information, visit