Sounding off for the Gauchos

Josue Madueno By Michael Moriatis

By Mark Patton, Santa Barbara News-Press

The two quietest Gauchos plan to make themselves heard on the noisiest night of UCSB's soccer season.

Soft-spoken Nic Ryan and Josue Madueno have never been marquee players at Harder Stadium, but they've always shined brightest when the stakes were big.

And they'll be huge on Friday at 6 p.m. when 12th-ranked UCLA calls on the No. 3 Gauchos in a match that will be nationally televised by the Fox Soccer Channel.

"I don't mind if people think I'm under the radar," said Ryan, whose three goals this season have included a pair of game-winners. "I know I can show."

Madueno had to be nearly dragged into the media conference after his goal and assist led the Gauchos to their 3-2 win over Providence in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

"I'm just not used to all this press stuff," he explained after Wednesday's workout. "I'm not the guy who usually gets all the attention, and I didn't expect that when I came here. I'm a pretty quiet guy.

"I just come in to do the work."

The task will be huge on Friday against a UCLA team that's loaded with national team players.

Neither Ryan nor Madueno were recruited by the Bruins, but they've been invaluable as moveable pieces in the ever-changing landscape of Harder Stadium.

"They have played different positions, and they've stepped in at different times during different parts of the season," coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "As the season goes on every year, they find themselves on the field more and more.

"You look at the end of the year and you're in the playoffs, and they're probably starting for you. That's been the case each of the last four years."

Madueno didn't get into last year's starting lineup until Vom Steeg, frustrated in his attempts to replace injured Peter McGlynn at right back, finally called on him.

"We were about to play Akron and I just felt that after losing McGlynn, we didn't have anything going on that side of the field," the 14th-year coach said. "I approached the coaching staff with the idea of putting Josue at right back, and they of course all looked at me funny."

Madueno conceded that getting his first start against the defending NCAA champion was "kind of nerve-wracking, but I got it out of my way and had a good game - and we got a result."

He got an assist along the way, heading the ball to Dom Sarle for a second-half goal in a match the Gauchos would eventually win 3-2 in overtime.

Madueno actually relished the position, even though McGlynn's return at right back this year has put him back in the midfield.

Ryan, who came to UCSB as a center-mid, was pushed to the wing by such Gaucho stars as Danny Barrera and Luis Silva for most of his first three seasons. He'd scored only twice in his career before finding the net three times already this year.

"I'm finally playing my most comfortable position: Attacking mid inside," he said. "In the past, I've played out wide, which is more service and things like that.

"Now I'm up the field, in the middle and more involved when these crosses come in."

The two senior midfielders from the Bay Area have more in common than their positions, experience and unassuming manners. Both had to prove themselves on a team that is headlined by international players.

"What's interesting is that you'll hear very little from them, but with Josue, it's his energy, bouncing all over that field," Vom Steeg said. "He's kind of a fan favorite that way. He gets up faster than anyone after getting knocked down.

"And the same is true for Nic Ryan. ... He does all the small things. When he's on his game, there's really nobody better in the middle of your park. Nic is a very, very quiet player - a two-touch, possession kind of player."

Although both played mostly reserve roles during their first two seasons, no moment was more pivotal for the Gauchos in 2010 than when Madueno fed Ryan with a golden goal during overtime of the Gauchos' 2-1 win over Cal Poly in the Big West Conference Tournament semifinals.

"We knew that was a big time in our season, and it was a crucial goal," Ryan said. "But it was pretty much a team goal. We played the ball up pretty well, they just got it to me and I scored."

They were both mobbed as the crowd rushed the field, an experience that they also enjoyed during a win over UCLA earlier that season before a school-record crowd of 15,896.

Just because they're quiet doesn't mean they want everybody else to be that way.

"You get energy from them," Madueno said.

"I played that night, and it was definitely a match you don't forget," Ryan chimed in. "It was hard to hear with all those fans. ... Hopefully it will be like that again on Friday."

Mark Patton's column appears on Thursday and Saturday. Email: mpatton@newspress.com

Season and single-game men's soccer tickets remain on sale. Fans can purchase tickets by dropping by the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.