UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Ryan Maduro was a little star-struck the first time he stepped onto the practice field alongside two soccer stars he grew up watching: New York Red Bulls Designated Players Rafa Márquez and Thierry Henry.
It will become old hat soon enough for the 25-year-old, who signed with the Red Bulls on Monday.
Putting pen to paper on that contract was a dream come true for Maduro, who has spent much of the past four years in the realms of soccer obscurity. After graduating from Providence College in 2008, the central midfielder played for clubs in the fourth-tier USL Premier Developmental League and went on trials with teams in Europe before signing with the Red Bulls.
“I’ve worked so hard for it,” Maduro told MLSsoccer.com. “Sometimes it comes easier for other people. Everyone’s path to their dream of success is different. That’s all I kept putting in my mind: Don’t look at everyone else and how everyone else made it, how quick they made it or how easy it was for them. Just work hard and stay determined.”
Staying determined has paid off for Maduro, who trialed with English clubs Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool as well as Portuguese outfit Belenenses in 2011. The Providence, R.I., native also spent time last year as a Red Bulls reserve player.
“Definitely, we get a better depth,” Red Bulls manager Hans Backe said when asked what Maduro brings to the team. “Now, I think we have our most complete roster with good players if you look at the outside 11, 12 regular players. That of course means our training sessions will be more effective.”
Now on a professional contract, Maduro is hoping to learn as much as he can from his new teammates and coaches, even if it is unlikely that he starts many games this season.
“I’m 25 years old, but I’m a 25-year-old rookie,” said Maduro, who is of Portuguese descent. “I have a good ability and [the Red Bulls coaching staff] saw that, but they also stressed that I have a lot to learn still.
“I’m totally for that, I agree with it,” Maduro continued. “It’s a completely different level, it’s a completely different game. You can have the most skill in the world, but it doesn’t really matter at this level if you don’t know how to use it at the right time. What better team to learn than with New York?”