Nicklas Rulle of the Jacksonville Armada Under-23s has been voted TheCup.us Player of the Round for the Armada’s First Round win in the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
After holding Miami United to a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes of play and without any field players left to take a penalty kick, Rulle stepped up to bury a right-footed shot. Miami United’s keeper, Peterson Occenat, similarly stepped up to take a PK immediately after. But only one goalkeeper would convert on the night as Rulle made the save handing the Armada Under-23s the shootout win. It was the first time the club had advanced in the tournament since 2018.
The Player of the Round award is voted on by TheCup.us staff, a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters and select backers (those that pledge $10 or more) of TheCup.us’ Patreon team. Rulle edged out Hevany Ramos of Capo FC, Pedro Batista Alves of Cleveland SC and Joseph Devivo of Lansdowne Yonkers.
Rulle has had a fun soccer journey to get to the Armada. He’s originally from Saeby, a seaport town in Northern Denmark. He played for Randers FC, a team regularly found in the top-flight of Danish football. After spending time with Denmark’s Under-15 team, he went on to play for Cleveland State and later Cumberland University in Nashville, Tenn. These days, in addition to playing for the Armada, Nicklas is an assistant coach with the Jacksonville University’s (JU) men’s soccer team. He primarily works with JU’s goalkeeper core, ensuring they have everything they need to perform at the highest level.
Rulle was “honored” and “excited” to win the award and said it was fun to be recognized. Ultimately though, he’s a humble player who places the team effort above himself. He stressed that the win belonged to the whole team who played 50 minutes with a man down and still churned out a “brilliant performance.”
Rulle’s humility should not be mistaken for a lack of personal belief. When asked if he was prepared to take a penalty that night Nicklas said, “I’ve taken some penalties in practice but not in a game since I was an Under-10 player. As a goalkeeper, we always want to show how things should be done and I’m no different.”
When asked what was going through his mind when stepping up to the line, no one on the team left to take a penalty after so many rounds of PKs, Rulle said, “There wasn’t a whole lot going through my mind, if I’m being honest. It was just, ‘No nerves. Just hit the frame. Smash it.’”
Rulle becomes the first Jacksonville Armada player to win the award, and the first player on an NPSL team since 2019. He also is just the second native of Denmark to take home the award. He joins another NPSL player, Rasmus Hansen of the Brooklyn Italians who won the honor for the 2018 Preliminary Round.
Next up, the Armada travel to face Miami FC of the USL Championship on Tuesday night. When asked about the preparation to face the Armada’s first professional opponent since 2018, Rulle said they’ve, “gone over things they can do well and things they need to be aware of” but ultimately, “there are opportunities to grab.”