There is definitely something different about Aidan Muller this school year.
It’s hard to quantify exactly what’s different. But something definitely is.
Then you notice the actions and you hear the words. Teachers, administrators, fellow students, even Muller himself, all say the same thing: He is so much more mature than he was in the past.
“I don’t want to say that I turned 18 last year and all of a sudden it’s different,” said Muller, who is in his third season as a member of the Putnam Science Academy soccer team. “But I’ve definitely grown a lot as a person in general. I’ve definitely become more mature in the way I think and see things. Even the small things. I used to be the one getting into bad situations but now I find myself trying to prevent people from getting into them. I think past experiences have made me more mature. I see the role of being a leader on this team and I have no choice but to be mature.”
Very likely, Muller would have never said those words last year. The self-reflection, the attention to details, the fact that he paused his answer to a question for this story because there was too much background noise. He is absolutely more aware.
The center midfielder, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, will wear the captain’s armband this season. His coach, Ryan Dunnigan, said part of the reason for that is because Muller has so much experience and is tactically well-versed. He can organize the players on the pitch and be an extension of the coach.
For Muller, it goes even deeper.
“I feel like I’ve always been a natural leader but at the same time I haven’t been good at it,” he said with more than a hint of that self-reflection. “But looking back at it, I really feel like I’ve been growing toward this over the years. And to be honest, I think whether I was the captain or not, I was going to be the same either way. I don’t need the captain armband to start being mature or taking responsibility.”
That said, this honor means a lot to him. Especially this year, when the fall season was cancelled by COVID, when there weren’t enough guys on campus to play anyway, when no one has played together very much, leading to a lack of on-field chemistry, and when there are a whole lot of younger guys in the program who are here for the first time.
“It’s definitely a bigger role and I enjoy it,” Muller said. “I enjoy taking on the job and giving my past experiences to help them understand what to do, not to do. And why. That’s important too.
“I’ve been in places that I shouldn’t have been and it’s an example for them that nothing good has come out of it and how they can do it better than I did. Being a captain on this team is not just on the field. It’s everywhere. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m honored.”
Dunnigan has worked hard this year to change some of the culture of the program, including the perception from last year that they weren’t always the most respectful group on campus.
“Aidan has taken that to heart,” Dunnigan said. “He’s been here the longest so he’s seen the most. He can see the change in the culture that we want to have. There are bigger lessons to be learned and Aidan is the extension of me on and off the pitch.
“There are learning moments, when he gets frustrated with training or with people on the team – which is completely normal and common to happen – and how he responds in those moments. The initial want to just snap isn’t the most logical or helpful response. He’s been great, he really has. He was someone as a coach you’re kind of worried about in the sense that he’s already committed to college, he’s in his third year, how do I get through to and motivate him? But he has been great. He has taken on what I have wanted to see from him.”
Muller will play next year at Division III Gettysburg College (along with former PSA teammate Leandro Ribeiro and a former teammate from his academy in South Africa), though Dunnigan believes he could easily play at the Division I level.
“I hadn’t really talked to them much, but they obviously came through with their actions and not their words,” Muller said. “With the circumstances with COVID, my family and I didn’t want to take any risks. But I’m so happy that I’m going there. It’s a good school, and I’m excited because of how I feel about myself and knowing I am putting myself in a good situation in a good program. It really wasn’t a difficult decision. I am so happy for it.”
Said Dunnigan: “I think he has the ability and can be on the track to be an All-American at the D-III level, start right away, and be one of the best players in the program.”
Muller had an assist in the Mustangs’ season-opening 5-1 win over Bridgeport Premier on April 3. Kaone Kolagano and Christian Kapanda both scored twice, Nathan Tau once, and Rafael Calvano added two assists in that one.
Sunday against Revolution United out of Stratford, Kolagano recorded a hat trick, leading the Mustangs to another 5-1 win. Tau and Godwin Asore added one goal apiece and Kapanda assisted on three goals. Muller and Landon Pettigrew had one assist each for PSA.
Stephen Nalbandian
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


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