UPSL Football: Florida drops to Lakeland in first round of playoffs

Some of the Florida Tropics’ best players forced into prior commitments put the region’s United Premier Soccer League team at a disadvantage in the first round of the West Florida playoffs. In the end, the Tropics lost to Lakeland United 2-1 on Monday night at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex.

The absence of normal starters in left-back Fernando Galvis and midfielder Marcelo Cruz led the Tropics to Lakeland United for the first time this season. The Tropics have played Lakeland three times in the past five weeks — including two in the regular season — and in the most important game of the year, Florida goes down, ending the season.

“We had a few hiccups in the first half of the game,” Florida Tropics head coach Evans Frimpong said. “And then they got out of the game plan, because obviously they couldn’t pass, they weren’t able to penetrate, (and) they weren’t able to do the little things that they were supposed to do. And besides that, I think we created chances in the second half that we could have scored more, and naturally showed them that we can play. We can’t find excuses now … We still held on and had a good game…”

Florida’s only goal was through Steven McQuinn, who scored with 5 minutes left in the game.

But Lakeland picked up the momentum in the first half and carried it through to the end of the game.

“First of all (I’m) really proud,” said Lakeland United head coach Tauan Salgado. “More than the win, I think the work we’ve done has come together. I know all the coaches will say that. But it’s clear to us. … Truth be told, we were a bit lucky to play the Tropics three times because we practice every day, we do a lot of video analysis. We do a lot of detailed things that play them three times, help us. Really a good team. I have a group of good friends I’ve known them for a long time. For me, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s an honor to play against the Tropics. It’s an honor to beat a professional franchise. They were the best team twice. I think we just got together, and I think the playoffs are usually the game that matters…”

When it counted earliest, Lakeland United striker Gabriel Dias scored in the 37th minute of the first half – the first goal of the game – and Victor Cavalcante headed the ball in the 43rd minute towards the end of the first half.

Those scores were the highlight of Lakeland keeping the ball on the Tropics side of the pitch for the majority of the first half.

“That’s what we look for when we build chances and create chances. Someone has to step in and put the ball in,” Salgado said.

Defensively, Lakeland overtook Tropics star Victor Parreiras – the Tropics’ best player and leader who led the indoor team to the Major Arena Soccer League championship series for the first time in its five-year history. Lakeland then played five in the back to neutralize any other threats.

Lakeland (5-2-4) will face Leg-AZ World FC (8-1-2) next Saturday on the road.

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