Stage is set, Tropics to host SIMA Aguilas in first-place showdown Saturday night

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. – Nothing less that sole possession of first place will be on the line Saturday night on SYKES Field at Bryant Stadium when the Lakeland Tropics host the Soccer Insttitue of Montverde Academy Aguilas in a USL Premier Development League southeast division showdown.

Both clubs come in with identical 6-1-2 marks nine games in to the 14 game regular season. The two teams split games last season, each winning at home, and SIMA took a 2-0 win over the Tropics in Montverde on June 8 this year. SIMA has a goals differential of +11 this year, while Lakeland's is +8, tied for second-best in the league with The Villages SC.

Only the top two teams in the division will advance to the post-season, and lurking just back of the pair is The Villages SC with a table of 5-2-2. They are the only three teams in the division to be over the .500 mark to date.

The Tropics are led by Juan Tejada, who scored the game winning goal last weekend and game tying score the week before that against The Village, with six goals. Ricardo Diegues has five goals, including one last week in a 3-1 win over FC Miami City. It was his first time on the scoresheet after getting one goal in each of the Tropics first four games this season.

In last year's 3-2 home win, Diegues had a three-point night with a goal and assists on both second-half goals scored by Victor Rojas who left shortly after that game to sign a professional soccer contract to play in Portugal.

Saturday's contest ends a three-game homestand, all against teams that participated in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open this spring, as did the Tropics. They hit the road for an Independence Day special July 4 against Next Academy Palm Beach, and then have another big top of the table matchup on the road July 7 against The Villages SC. One more road match follows, on June 10 at IMG Academy Bradenton, before the final home game of the regular season, July 14 against Weston FC.

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