The Road Less Traveled: How Ryan Maduro Became A New York Red Bull

Image: NewYorkRedBulls.com

The New York Red Bulls announced the signing of midfielder Ryan Maduro yesterday to no real fanfare. A press release made the acquisition official, giving a sparse outline about a player that could only be matched by the ambiguity of his name.

“Maduro had training stints with English sides, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool, as well as Portugal’s Belenenses in the past year” it read. He “enjoyed four excellent seasons on the collegiate level playing for Providence College from 2004-08” it explained. He was a “First Team All American and a First Team All-Big East selection” it proceeded to inform us. All of that was bundled into a nice package by the prototypical endorsement from Red Bulls General Manager, Erik Soler. “Ryan earned his spot on the roster after a solid showing in preseason,” Soler was quoted. “He is a young midfielder from the northeast who will provide us depth and can develop within our squad.”

It was the kind of blueprint release reserved for any college acquisition used to fill a roster spot. The problem here is that Maduro wasn’t your typical college signing. His short playing bio left gaping holes in time that spoke louder than his accomplishments on the field. Since 2009, he bounced from trial to trial before landing in the lower tiers of semi-pro ball of the American soccer pyramid. How did he ever find his way to the professional ranks?

The real story behind Maduro isn’t in where he trialed or what college he attended; it’s in how he became a professional soccer player after teetering on the brink of retirement.

“I pondered ending my career because of a few things, but mainly because I could never get lucky anywhere,” Maduro told EoS. “After a very successful college career, I was expecting, as were many of my coaches and peers, to have a successful pro career – or I should say a great opportunity to play professional.”

In 2009, Maduro had his sights set on a professional career. He entered the MLS Combine in pursuit of that dream. There, he would encounter his first of many road blocks as he failed to get picked up by a team. The rejection fueled his desire to make it in the upper echelons of the soccer world. He gave up an opportunity to play in the USL in order to try his hand overseas.

“I was sold on going to Europe, seeing that I had my EU passport so it wouldn’t be an issue,” he explained. “I spent all of ’09 and ’10 looking for a club but luck was never on my side.” Though an opportunity to develop his career on a higher tier enticed the move, a bigger picture guided the former All American in his quest for a professional club. “I wanted to be able to help make money for my family, so playing in the USL was not really an avenue – especially with many of its financial issues.”

Unable to latch onto a team, Maduro returned home and toiled in the Premier Development League. He featured for the Rhode Island Stingrays and the Forest City Londoners trying to keep fit and ready for the time opportunity came knocking.

He held a day job with his family business, Maduro Masonry, and snuck in practices in the early morning and late evening hours of the day. “I spent a long time working construction for my father,” he said. “We build pools, brick houses, cement drive ways, made walkways. (I’ve) built buildings with blocks, poured cellar floors – you name it, I did it all with him and his guys.”

The son of immigrants, Maduro was raised in a Portuguese household that preached the importance of hard work, dedication, and a love of football. “Never give up and hard work is something my family bleeds,” he explained. “My family migrated from the islands of the Azores, Portugal where it was poor and hard work was the only way you could survive. They came to America to better their lives, and without any education or knowing the English language, they toughened it out and have earned everything they’ve got today.” He grew up idolizing the great Rui Costa and, as a product of New England, followed the exploits of the dominant Dempsey/Joseph lead Revolution teams of the early 2000’s.

Maduro had been working with his family since he was all of 11 years old, helping out his father on the weekends and working with the crew during school breaks. “I even got yelled at a couple times over the summer in college by my coaches because they thought I was working too much!” He continued that balancing act after his college years were over and right through to the time New York came calling. “I actually worked construction up until coach (Mike) Petke told me they wanted me in for camp this January,” he explained.

The Red Bull’s assistant coach first opened the door for Maduro at a time when he was looking to shut it for good. “Last summer, I pondered giving up pursuing a professional career, but late in the season my agent reached out to coach Petke about bringing me in for the last couple reserve games if he needed numbers. I thought it would be another miss for me, but thankfully, Mike gave the green light and I came in for the last two reserve games of the year.”

Things became more daunting for the 25 year old when two games became one match, thanks to a cancellation of a reserve encounter against TFC. “The trial period was pretty brief. I got in on a Wednesday morning I think, trained that afternoon with the reserves and we left right after the session en route to DC. So I didn’t get much training before that match, and the talk in the group was that DC were a top reserve squad in MLS. I played the game on a Thursday morning. It was a pretty solid game from our end and we ended up tying a string DC team mixed with first team regulars 2-2. That was it.”

Shortly after the MLS season ended, the former All-American received a surprise phone call. It was Mike Petke, once again offering the young man a chance to play – this time with the professional ranks of the New York Red Bulls.

He would go on to join the team in Montclair University for the Red Bulls’ first preseason training camp, where he competed amongst thirteen other players vying for a handful of spots. In the end, he was one of only five that earned a second look with an invitation to the team’s camp in Cancun, Mexico.

“After Mexico the staff spoke to me and told me they were very pleased with my play and were pretty confident I was going to have a spot on the team. They stressed that they wanted to see the same effort and play when we headed down to Arizona.” Maduro continued to grind it out through the preseason and into the 2012 campaign. Finally, on March 19th 2012, three years after the end of his college career, the dream became a reality.

“(The coaches) gave me an opportunity to show what I could do and they were always giving me confidence and positive criticism. I have nothing but good words to say from the entire staff here at Red Bull, and I am very thankful for the confidence they have in me and the willingness to help me develop as a more mature, pro ready player.”

“Only my family and I truly understand what signing a contract with the New York Red Bulls signifies,” he explained. “I would say, without any self-recognition, that it’s pretty cool I was able to fight past all the hard times and still fight for my dreams.”

“Never quit and determination – that’s the motto here.”

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You can follow Ryan Maduro as he continues his journey via Twitter – @Mad_Skilled22


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  • DJ

    Dude a thousand plus words on Mauro! Ha this is why I come back to EOS every morn. Great story _ already a fan of the kid even if he won’t sniff starting minutes.

  • Thanks DJ … but remember … his name is MADURO (the unknown player!) ;)


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