MASL 2019-20 Defender of Year Drew Ruggles resigns with Florida Tropics on five-year deal

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Major Arena Soccer League's 2019-20 Defender-of-the-Year will be calling Florida home for the next five seasons.

Fan favorite Drew Ruggles, who came to the Florida Tropics after winning an MASL championship in 2019 as a member of the Milwaukee Wave, has signed a new deal with the team. Per league and team policy, no further contract information is released.

A defensive stalwart with an offensive flair, Ruggles started his professional indoor career with the Baltimore Blast in 2014-15, before spending four years in Milwaukee. In total, he has appeared in 106 MASL games with 47 goals and 33 assists. 

He played collegiately at Georgia Southern and has played professionally outdoors for two USL teams, the Wilmington Hammerheads and the Rochester Lancers. He also spent a season in USL League Two with Michigan Bucks, and the last two seasons with the Tropics outdoor side in the United Premier Soccer League. The 29-year-old is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

His best year came in his first with Florida, when in 20 games he banged in 14 goals and had seven assists, a career best in both goals and total points. In addition, he had a career best 22 blocks, and has 75 total blocks since his debut with the Blast. Last year, because of injury, he only played in five games, getting three goals and three assists. 

"When we brought Drew on, we knew his talents were fantastic for the indoor game as a two-way defender, his ability to move forward, the attacking element that he provides and his gritty defending. He's such a balanced player " Florida Coach Clay Roberts said. " To have him on now for long term, that solidifies who we are in the back. And the players around him will continue to feed off that."

It was midway through his first season with the Tropics when Ruggles really began to settle in, Roberts said.

"It was really fun to see, to see his understanding of what we want to do," Roberts added. "That's an expectation now. To have him back 100 percent, his excitement level is through the roof, and that shows by the long-term deal he signed with us."

In winning Defender-of-the-Year honors two seasons ago, Ruggles -- who had never won any post season MASL honor despite being a key member of the Wave -- was part of a defense that gave up a measly 86 goals in 21 games, by far the best in the entire MASL. His prior team, Milwaukee, gave up the second fewest goals, 96, and that total came in just 20 games. 

The Tropics will kick off their sixth season in the Major Arena Soccer League later this fall at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, playing a 24-game schedule. The Tropics were the 2019-20 Eastern Conference champions with an 18-3 record. The season and playoffs were cancelled in March that season because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, the Tropics won the regular season title with a 10-3 mark, but fell in the first-round of the MASL playoffs to the eventual champion San Diego Sockers in games played on a neutral field in Kansas City. 

The league expects to announce its full schedule in the coming weeks, at which time the Tropics will also release information on tickets including a new fan-friendly policy that will allow thousands of local soccer fans to attend MASL games over the winer. 

For more information, visit fltropics.com, or any of the team's social media sites.