Tropics times two: Saturday soccer doubleheader at historic Bryant Stadium

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla – It's Tropics soccer times two Saturday at historic Bryant Stadium in Lakeland.

The Women's Premier Soccer League Florida Lady Tropics will kick off the fun a 4 p.m. as they host the Puerto Rico Pride.

The WPSL is considered second-division soccer for women in the United States, below only the National Womens Soccer League. Entering its 21st season, the WPSL has grown to more than 100 clubs and is the largest women’s soccer league in the world, and features such alumni as Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Brandi Chastain.

Both teams are seeking their first early-season win. Florida is 0-1-1, following a 2-0 road loss to the Gulf Coast Dutch Lions and a 0-0 draw last weekend at Bryant Stadium against the Florida Sol FC. The Pride have fallen 5-0 to the Clay County based Sol, and 4-2 to Team Boca Blast last weekend in Celebration.

The Lady Tropics will be right back in action Sunday against the Florida Krush at the Walter Fuller Sports Complex in St. Petersburg. against the Florida Krush. The Lady Tropics came about as a merger of the Lakeland organization and Pinellas County United SC, which was awarded a WPSL franchise in 2013.

On the men's side, Lakeland kicks off an enormous three-game homestand by welcoming The Villages SC, the first of three straight against teams that completed in this year's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as did the Tropics. All four teams suffered first-round defeats,

At 5-1-1 (16 points), Lakeland sits atop the USL Premier Development League's southeast division table, ahead of the SIMA Aguilas (4-0-2, 13 points) and The Villages SC (3-1-1, 10 points). The Aguilas handed the Tropics a 2-0 loss last weekend, and the two teams will rematch on June 30 to cap the homestand.

The men's match will kick off at 7:30 p.m., 30 minutes later than the previously announced start time of 7:00.

Lakeland comes in following a solid 1-0 win Tuesday at North County United, who had played the Tropics to a 3-3 tie earlier in the season at Bryant Stadium. The Buffalo come in having fallen 1-0 to the United on the road as well last weekend.

Ricardo Diegues and Juan Tejada continue to lead the Lakeland offense with four goals each. Diegues had a goal in each of the team's first four games, but has been held off the scoresheet since. Tejada bunched four goals into a three-game stretch ending with a brace iin a 3-1 against IMG Academy, but also has been held scoreless in the last two games. Matheus Assumpcao, a teammate of Tejada's at Eckerd College, got the game winner Tuesday in the 68th minute.

Miami City FC will visit June 23 before the SIMA Aguilas showdown on June 30. For more information, head to www.tropicssoccer.com.