By: Bryan Giese
The heart of a champion can never be truly measured. For the Milwaukee Torrent however, becoming NPSL Champions in 2018 begins with the heart, the determination and the leadership of their long haired captain, Drew Ruggles. His passion for the game, the city, and the Torrent are visible even from the stands at Hart Park.
After suffering a knee and ankle injury during the most recent MASL season, Ruggles returns to the Torrent for his third year. During the recent men’s team tryouts, he led the candidates through warm ups, showing off the strength and agility that has returned to that knee. Afterwards, Drew Ruggles answered some questions presented to him by milwaukeetorrent.com.
Going into your third year with the Torrent, how do you prepare yourself differently now then you did that first year? Physically and mentally?
Drew Ruggles: “Physically is a little different for me this year, as I’m coming off an injury. However, the grind will still be in full effect. Coming in physically ready is going to be important for everyone as we have a lot to prove this year. Approaching the season with a good mentality is just as important. You have to be confident in your skills and your teammates but more prudently you have to be mentally ready to join a team and accept its goals and culture. It’s important to be open minded with so many new faces but focusing on the collective growth of our squad will be an important goal for me this year.“
Judging by the players that are announced to the roster already, what do you feel is the biggest improvement on this team from last?
“I think its overall quality, we have a few exciting players coming to the squad. We were struggling with depth last year and I think Coach Davi made some great steps in the right direction, specifically, bringing in a guy like Alex Bradley. I’m very familiar with what he can bring to a game, both mentally and technically. We played against each other a handful of times and frequently would end up marking one another in our indoor season. We’ll have to see who has the better left this year!”
What do you look to improve on personally from last season?
DR: “I think I need to work on my discipline. Focusing more on myself and my teammates, I think it will help me be a better captain. I want to impact the game more with my play as well. Being more consistent with my game; decision-making, quality of passes, communication, game management. Ultimately improving my own game will help the team.”
What is your personal goal while playing with the Torrent this season?
DR: “I’d like to continue to help my team on the score sheet. As a defender goals don’t come by often, so it’s great that Coach has trusted me with PK’s. Another personal goal of mine is to keep clean sheets a more common occurrence. As a defensive midfielder/ center back, I can impact the game a lot from a defensive standpoint, breaking up possession and winning tackles.”
Would reaching the NPSL playoffs this season make it a successful year for you and the Torrent?
DR: “I don’t think so. There will always be ways to improve and areas of focus and refocus, both personally and from a team standpoint. But I think the reason we all play is to hold that trophy at the end with all your teammates. I was fortunate enough to have had that feeling with the Rhinos in the USL, and it’s a really special feeling that you want to share with any team you play for. Of course I play because I love the game, but who doesn’t love winning. I’m a competitor at heart and I wouldn’t be true to myself by saying that I’m ok with just making playoffs.”
You enjoy working with kids throughout the community. Tell us about Optimal Fitness and your involvement?
DR: “Optimal fitness is a multipurpose gym located inside Brookfield Indoor Complex. I am one of the “Coaches” on staff with the Sports Performance Program. Headed by Reagan Andersen and Ian Bennett, we work with young athletes from all sports that want to improve their coordination, strength, speed, etc. Focusing on technique in a small group setting really has shown a lot of benefits in the kids we work with. You won’t find any other programs like it in the Milwaukee area!”
In a recent conversation with teammate Michael Da Silva, it was brought up that you have given him a rather unique nickname based on his middle name. He is such a great guy, and has a fun loving character, I’m sure he won’t mind if you answered one last very important question.
Should Michael Da Silva have the name “KoolAid” on his jersey this year?
DR: “Absolutely!!!!! He’s a great guy and will hate me for that but I told him it would stick eventually!! If he wants to bust onto the field and say “OOOOh Yeaaaah” that would be greatly appreciated as well.”
On a more serious note about the new Torrent forward, after spending time this winter seeing his work ethic and ability, what would you say is the biggest asset he brings to the team in 2018?
DR: “I thinks it’s his athleticism and ability to take people on in open areas. He’s physically a handful for defenders and will bring a different aspect to our attack that I think we didn’t really have last year. Looking forward to linking up with him a couple of times this season!
Drew Ruggles, Michael DaSilva, and the rest of the Milwaukee Torrent are very excited to get on the field again very soon. Their first friendly of the season takes place on April 22 at 3PM against UW-Parkside. For a complete list of matches visit the Schedule Page.