Jorge Navarrete, the unlikely homegrown hero, leading Tropics to MASL semifinals

Tropics will face Kansas City this weekend in the MASL semifinals
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Posted at 10:30 AM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 17:59:00-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Florida Tropics are just a few wins away from claiming their first-ever Major Arena Soccer League championship.

“When you start the season it seems so far away, the goals you set for yourself,” Tropics goalkeeper Jorge Navarette told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “You go chopping away at it.”

Chopping away also describes Navarette’s professional career.

“We had goaltenders here before me, so I really didn’t get an opportunity to play,” he said. “When I did, the first people I would call up is mom and dad, and friends and family. Having them be able to come out and see me is huge.”

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Navarette played at nearby Plant City High School and signed with the Tropics in 2016 when the team was born.

“Jorge has been part of my DNA here with the Florida Tropics,” head coach Clay Roberts said. "I’ve known him in high school, he played for me in college, I am also the head coach at Southeastern University. Jorge played four years there.”

“The game kind of slows down for you when you've been in it long enough and you learn from great goaltenders and a coach that knows the game inside and out,” Navarette added.

Despite his previous success, he’s only made six starts in the last six years in the MASL.

It’s been a unique season for Tropics’ goalkeepers. Their all-league keeper from Brazil, Hugo Silva, had his visa denied midseason. That created a path to playing time for Navarette.

“You work day in and day out for however long you have to to get that opportunity and take advantage of it,” he said.

The unlikely homegrown hero got the start and made fantastic saves that led the Tropics in a 6-4 series-clinching quarterfinal win against St. Louis last weekend.

“It means a lot,” Navarette said. “It’s not any more pressure, but a pride thing knowing you’re in your backyard and you get to perform in front of your family and friends.”

The Tropics will face the Kansas City Comets in the best-of-three semifinal round beginning on Friday in Kansas City. Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3 will be played in Lakeland on Saturday.

“We have nothing but confidence in him, the players behind him the coaches are behind him, he has a great opportunity to lead us to a championship,” Roberts said.