By Neil Geoghegan
@NeilMGeoghegan on Twitter
WEST CHESTER >> Coaches advocating for their own players is one thing. But when they commend players from opposing teams, it carries much more weight.
So what does it say when a bunch of soccer coaches all around the Ches-Mont league absolutely rave about West Chester Henderson’s Ryan Kuegler? A lot.
“(Kuegler) was an absolute handful in the middle, and could be dangerous at any moment in the game,” said West Chester Rustin head coach Ryan Castle.
“Ryan is a dynamo,” added Great Valley mentor Dave Moffett. “He was the engine that powered Henderson. He never stopped.
“He was always involved in some way: battling to win balls, starting attacks, challenging in the air, making tackles, displaying great vision in his passing, or beating people on the dribble. His competitive fire and tenacity were always on display and are a big part of what makes him a special player.”
With Kuegler seemingly at the center of it all, Henderson went 17-7 in 2022 and finished third in the district tournament. He was later named the team and Ches-Mont National MVP, All-Southeast Pennsylvania, and ultimately All-State. Now, he adds the Daily Local News All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year to his postseason honors.
“Last year we put Ryan on the wing and told him to go score goals, and he had double-digit goals,” said Warriors’ head coach Chas Wilson. “This year, we lost Ethan Jarden, our offensive hub, and we needed Ryan to create opportunities to other people. We wanted him to get some of our wing players, who didn’t have much varsity experience, some opportunities. And he did.”
So in the offseason he was moved from forward to center attacking midfielder. But Kuegler wound up playing a total of five different positions during the course of the season. In addition to everything else, he was versatile.
“I like playing different positions because there are different angles,” he said. “I also did that in club soccer as well. On the wing you can take on more defenders out wide and use your attacking skills. In the middle it is totally different – creating more, moving the ball.”
As a result, Kuegler’s goal-scoring total dropped (to five) this fall, but his assist numbers mushroomed (to 17).
“At the beginning (of the season) I was a little frustrated about not scoring as much, but my coaches talked to me that it’s more about how much I can help the team,” Kuegler explained.
“I had a lot more assists this season and we had a bunch of goal scorers. Everyone was scoring, even some of our defenders.”
For example, teammates J.J. Flannery and Nathaniel Griffin were first-time varsity players this fall on the wing, and with Kuegler’s help they scored seven goals apiece.
“What those two guys did was not by accident,” Wilson pointed out. “Ryan made his teammates better in a lot of different ways, but he also covered up for mistakes that others make.
“He did whatever we needed him to do. He’s played at four or five different positions this season. You never know whether certain guys on the team are going to show up on a daily basis, but you know that Ryan will.”
Along with sisters Kelsey and Emily, Kuegler is a triplet. He began playing recreation soccer in West Chester at the age of four. Currently 5-foot-6, 140-pounds, he has never been a physically imposing player. But he makes up for it a number of different ways.
“I am definitely not a big guy,” Kuegler said. “So with my low center of gravity, I like to use my body to my advantage. Whether it’s drawing a foul or running round and under defenders.
“And I pride myself on work ethic. I was never the most talented guy – I’ve been on ‘B’ teams my entire life – so one of the most important things in soccer is effort. The more I run, the more I can do.”
Those traits are what makes Kuegler an excellent two-way player. Defensively, he is a disruptor, and he is quickly able to transition to offense.
“My mindset is just trying to work my hardest to win the ball back,” he said.
“He works so hard,” Wilson added. “I like to call center midfielders like him a destroyer. He buzzed around the middle of the field, broke up passes and started our counter attack.”
Not heavily recruited to play college soccer, Kuegler is headed to Catholic University, an NCAA Division III powerhouse.
“They wanted me, and I didn’t get a ton of interest from other schools,” he said. “I love the school and the program, so it was just a perfect fit.”
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