Madrigal, East look for state tournament appearance
The contagious, wide smile registers first during an initial meeting with East senior Abel Madrigal. It’s the sort of smile that invites you to sit around and listen, because no doubt you’re going to smile.
Yet East boys soccer coach Dylan Gruntzel has said that Madrigal is tough, one of the toughest players around, so tough that he swears Madrigal could pick up a car.
Hang on a minute. He’s all of 5-foot-3. But the Madrigal who controls the middle of the soccer field is a different person.
Oh, he still talks and smiles, but he is physical.
“For his size, you’d think he’d get pushed off (the ball), but he’ll fight you off,” teammate Jacksen Petersen said.
Madrigal’s personality and toughness are two keys for East, which hopes to contend for a Class 6A title. East returns 16 of its 22 players from 2012, and Madrigal is critical because of his his abilities to communicate, to lighten any mood with a random shout of “I want some Coca-Cola!” and his soccer skills.
No one knew Madrigal until he showed up at practice in 2012 after moving from Seattle, when his parents moved to Wichita because of jobs.
He made an immediate effect as East improved from two straight five-win seasons to 13-5 and a regional final appearance. Madrigal, an All-Metro selection, played all but 20 minutes last season, scored 10 goals — three on free kicks —and had seven assists.
Madrigal tries to play like his idol, Mario Balotelli.
“I like how physical he is,” Madrigal said. “He’s not scared of anyone. Not the biggest defense in all the world. He goes to him and he takes him.”
He also credits his older cousins for making him tough because they never made exceptions for his size or youth.
“He’s such a well-rounded player, that you can’t take a weakness from him,” Gruntzel said. “Except for maybe his height.”
East’s midfielders are all short, including Emilio Montanez (5-4) and Angel Lopez (5-5).
“Personally I believe we’re strong in every position, but the strongest is the three center-mids,” Gruntzel said. “They’re the best at communicating, and that’s what we’ve preached from Day 1. If everyone else is having a bad day, you’re still controlling the middle of the field. They pass the ball well, they rotate.”
If they’re tired, they don’t need Gruntzel to move them around, they do it on their own.
Strong such strong passing only helps an already talented corps of forwards in sophomore Brayan Martinez-Salinas, Rodrigo Amaya and Alberto Nava-Rodriguez. Martinez-Salinas can score from as far as 35 yards, with either foot, while Nava controls the ball well, and Amaya is good with his right foot.
Defensively, seniors Cale Martin and Petersen not only control the ball and the defense, they play a smart game and rarely get beat. East also adds North transfer Bryan Hernandez at goalkeeper.
“I told Bryan, ‘The only goals I’ve seen seen scored on you are breakaways, but with these guys in front of you, there won’t be breakaways,’” Gruntzel said.
While East has the experience and the talent, what might be even more critical is that Madrigal is now leading. Gruntzel said he had more of a freshman mentality in 2012 when he simply came in and played.
“He didn’t have that pushing, that desire to make the team better,” Gruntzel said. “… He sent me a message last year saying, ‘I’m sorry we lost to Northwest (in the regional final) … and next year we’ll do whatever it takes to go to state.’ Ever since then he’s pushed people in practice, in scrimmages.”
CITY LEAGUE PLAYERS TO WATCH
City League players to watch
Carroll: Luis Fernandez, sr.; Alex Morgan, sr.; Connor McGreevy, sr.; Matt Price, sr.
Heights: Michael Plang, sr.; Michael Cuevas, sr.; Logan Hartman, jr.
Kapaun: David Ewers, sr.; Rhys Allen, sr.; Daniel Kelly, sr.; Jack Masterson, sr.; Logan Wells, sr.; Mitchell Sheets, sr.; Braeden Marshall, jr.
North: Cobi Black, sr.; Jesus Hernandez, sr.; Miguel Regalado, sr.; Juan Barron, jr.; Abraham Ruelas, sr.; Enrique Martinez, jr.; Juan Rueda, jr.; Andre Van Es, sr.; Sami Sabrah.
Northwest: Andres Lleras, sr.; Nick Cramer, sr.; Mitchell Shurtz, sr.; Bailey Bryand, sr.; Makena Rhodes, sr.
South: Bryce Markham, sr.; Jon Umana, jr.; Isaac Moreno, sr.; Trey Silmon, jr.; James Everett, sr.; Jose Jimenez, so.; Cameron Toppins, jr.; Christian Nunez, sr.; Daniel Garcia, jr.
Southeast: Trey Winters, sr.; Victor Olorunfemi, jr.; Esteban Perez, jr.
West: Hector Ibarra, sr.; Wes Killian, sr.