Shorthanded Tropics give determined effort but fall short to division-leading SIMA Aguilas, 2-1

by Brian Ackley

MONTVERDE, Fla. – A shorthanded Lakeland Tropics team put up a determined effort against the top team in the PDL southeast division Tuesday night, but it was not quite enough as the SIMA Aguilas dashed the Tropics playoff dreams in a 2-1 defeat.

A win would have kept Lakeland's post-season drive alive. But they were already without second-leading scorer Victor Rojas coming into the game (who left to play professionally in Portugal earlier this month), and leading scorer Ricardo Diegues who set out the second half with an inner-thigh injury suffered early in the first half.

Diegues was taken down hard in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick that was converted for a 1-0 Lakeland lead, but it still turned out to be a costly moment.

The Aguilas tied the game shortly before intermission, but Tropics starting goaltender Jonathan Valerio kept hopes alive in the 48th minute when he stopped an Aguilas PK. The hosts got the game winner in the 64th minute, and despite a couple of reasonable chances after that, Lakeland could not get the equalizer.

The win improved SIMA to 11-1-1, with still their only loss coming at the hands of the Tropics July 1 at Bryant Stadium. Lakeland falls to 9-3-1, still goof for third place in the division, but only the top two teams qualify for the playoffs. FC Miami City, which handed Lakeland its only other defeats of the season, will claim the other post-season slot.

The Tropics will conclude their inaugural season in the PDL with a road match Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rowdies U23, a make up date from a contest rained out in June.