Tropics electrify huge opening night crowd in defeating Villages SC, 4-3

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND – The Lakeland Tropics opened their home season in grand fashion – and before a Bryant Stadium crowd of 6,172 – with a 4-3 win over the defending Southeast Division champion Villages SC Saturday night.

Two of the leading scorers from the team's sister franchise – the Florida Tropics of the Major Arena Soccer League who play at the Lakeland Center – stepped forward after Lakeland had been shut out in Miami in their first ever Premier Development League game.

Victor Rojas, second on the Florida squad in goals this past indoor season, scored twice, including a beautiful game winner midway through the second half when he went top corner, far post from 15 yards out for the game winner.

Ricardo Diegues, who shared the indoor team's mark for most goals last year, and Ramzi Toure, a standout player with the University of Tampa, got Lakeland's other scores.

“What a great way to open our home schedule. I'm not sure I could have asked for anything more out of our players or our fans, who proved right out of the gate how important they are going to be in our success,” Coach Eoghan Conlon said. “Everybody played a key role in stepping up and delivering the community a night to remember.”

The win levels the Tropics mark at 1-1 heading into a road game May 24 at Weston FC. Lakeland is back at home Memorial Day weekend, for another “Soccer Night in Lakeland” Saturday special, when they host the Palm Beach Suns FC in a 7:35 p.m. That game, as will all of the Tropics home games this season, will be broadcast live on YouTube.

For more information, including the complete schedule and ticket information, visit