After a quiet debut the day prior, Major Arena Soccer League star Ian Bennett erupted for three goals in the second half Jan. 3 to lift the Florida Tropics to a 7-5 win over the St. Louis Ambush Sunday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
Bennett is playing for the Tropics this season because the Milwaukee Wave will not field a team in 2021, due to local and state Covid-19 restrictions in Wisconsin. His playing rights were acquired by the Tropics for the current season and revert back to the Wave for the MASL’s 2021-22 campaign. He came into the season with 381 goals in 273 career indoor games.
The Tropics – defending Eastern Conference champions – took a 3-0 lead to intermission on goals by Lucas Teixeira, Lucas Montelares and Ricardinho. Ado Jahic got the first of his two St. Louis Goals to make it 3-1 before Bennett added his first of the year in the third.
The Ambush rallied to tie it on additional goals by Howard Miller Jr. And Tony Walls, but Florida surged ahead 5-4 on the second goal of the season by reigning MASL defender of the year Drew Ruggles. St. Louis tied it again with five minutes to play on a goal by Magui Souza, but Bennett got his game winner with just 1:23 to go.
He added his third goal with just 53 seconds to play for a little insurance.
“Every game this year, we’re going to get everyone’s best, and fourth quarters are going to be as much about heart and effort as it is talent,” Tropics Coach Clay Roberts said. “Tonight
was a great step forward for us in that regard. We didn’t panic and stayed in our game plan which gave us the result we were all looking for.”
The Tropics improved to 2-0 on the season, following a 4-1 win the day prior over the Ambush. Florida will stay at home to host the Kansas City Comets in a pair of games this weekend, with kickoffs set for Friday, Jan. 8, at 7:05 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 10th, at 3:05 p.m.
At present, 11 teams have committed to playing in the 2021 season, although that could still change depending on local restrictions related to the pandemic. Six teams are playing in January, with the remaining teams to join the mix in February. Teams will play between 12 and 24 games, with playoff seeding determined by overall winning percentage.
The league is announcing schedules only a month at a time because of the pandemic restrictions, but the final games of the regular season will be played by April 18.
Single game tickets are available through the Florida Tropics’ Facebook page or by calling 863-240-0101. Tickets will also be available the day of games at the RP Funding Center box office.
The team and arena have devised a socially-distanced seating plan that can accommodate approximately 1,500 fans per game. Facial coverings will be required for those in attendance.