Tropics end regular season in style, setting record in 5-0 win over Weston FC

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND --- The weather was perfect, one of the largest crowds of the season was on hand for Fan Appreciation Night Saturday night on SYKES Field at Bryant Stadium, and the Lakeland Tropics did their part to entertain them in their regular season finale, blanking Weston FC, 5-0.

But it still was likely not quite enough to help the second-year club into the USL Premier Development League playoffs, While the Tropics got the win they needed, they needed either the SIMA Aguilas or The Villages SC to drop their weekend games to earn a post-season berth. However, The Villages SC defeated IMG Academy Bradenton 5-0, while SIMA, who came into the weekend in first place in the eight-team southeast division, will host Miami City FC late Sunday afternoon. Miami comes in the game in fifth place overall.

If the Tropics don't get help Sunday, it will be the second consecutive year they will have just missed earning a playoff berth, finishing in third place in the division each season. This year, Lakeland's final mark is 9-2-3.

Lakeland scored in the first five minutes, when Lucas Coutinho made a strong toe poke from in close to the far post to give the Tropics a 1-0 lead. Midway through the first, Danny Morillo got his first of the season when he snuck behind the Weston defense.

Juan Tejada gave the Tropics a 3-0 lead in the 59th minute on one of the prettiest assists of the season. Ben Mendoza picked a ball near the right side of the box, deked by a defender and then sent in a perfect cross that Tejada redirected for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.

Mendoza then made it 4-0 scoring on a nice strike in the 75th minute before Liam Guest got his first of the season in the 90th minute to close out the scoring.

Goalkeeper Gustavo Vasconcelos recorded his fifth clean sheet of the campaign. The five goals marked a team record for the Tropics for scores in a single game, and also was their largest margin of victory in their two years in the PDL.

Unless Lakeland sneaks into the outdoor post-season, action will now shift to to the professional indoor season with Lakeland's sister franchise, the Florida Tropics,  set to start their third season in the Major Arena Soccer League. Florida, which plays its home games on SYKES Field at the RP Funding Center, will play a 24-game regular season schedule with the season starting in very early December, and running through the end of March. For more information go to www.tropicssoccer com.