Reading ties bear fruit for Union in the form of Gaddis
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Raymon Gaddis received the birthday present of a lifetime.
A day before celebrating his 22nd birthday, Gaddis was tabbed by the Philadelphia Union as the 35th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
The right back, who featured for Union PDL affiliate Reading United AC in 2010 and 2011, was elated to hear his name called at the Kansas City Convention Center on Thursday.
"I'm very excited for [the Union] to draft me," Gaddis said minutes after addressing the SuperDraft auditorium. "It's a great thing. My birthday is tomorrow – this is the best birthday gift for me."
Gaddis was quick to attribute landing in Philadelphia to playing for Reading. It's the second straight year the Union have leaned on their extensive knowledge of the ultra-talented pool of players funneling through Reading's program.
In addition to Gaddis, Reading alums Andrew Wenger (No. 1 overall) and Matt Hedges (No. 11 overall) were chosen by Montreal and Dallas, respectively. In 2011, four Reading players were drafted, including Levi Houapeu at No. 41 overall by the Union.
"We played Philadelphia Union a couple times [in friendlies], so I thought it might be a good possibility ... that the Philadelphia Union organization would take me," Gaddis said. "Reading is almost like a feeder system for Philadelphia Union, producing great players."
While playing for Reading doesn't automatically grant Philadelphia the rights to a prospect, it does give the MLS side an in-depth understanding of a player's make-up, both physical and mental.
Through the relationship between the two teams, the Union have long been tracking Gaddis' development.
And he has long been impressing.
“Ray Gaddis has caused constant problems for opposing teams with his speed out of the back,” Reading United AC president Art Auchenbach said during the 2010 season.
Gaddis, who was sporting a black bow-tie for the draft, describes himself as a dynamic outside back who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
"I'm a very hard-working player, very motivated, vey determined," Gaddis told philadelphiaunion.com. "I like calling myself a player who sacrifices. I'm willing to do whatever the team needs to do for the Philadelphia Union to win.
"I'm very fast, for my size I love to tackle, I love to get stuck in. I think I can play in any formation and I read the game very well. I'm a good defender."
Coach John Hackworth believes Gaddis only fell to the Union because of an injury that prevented teams from closely monitoring his progress.
"Ray is a little bit of a sleeper because I think he would have been on everybody's radar except he played injured this year," said Hackworth. "He's one of the best right back prospects in the country but he was playing hurt and because of that his coach – who we know pretty well – played him at holding midfielder coming off an injury late in the season.
"I think that may have hurt his chances to be invited to the combine and being seen by some other teams, but he played right back at Reading a couple of years. He's got tremendous upside so we're pretty excited. We needed that depth in the back and we were fortunate Ray was still available."
As Hackworth noted, the ability to follow players who feature for Reading over an extended period of time may be the relationship's most beneficial perk. Gaddis spent the past two summers with United, playing in eight games during the 2010 season and one game in 2011.
"The Reading experience is a great one," Gaddis said. "Coach [Brendan] Burke, who works with the [Union], brings together a great group of talented players to get you prepared for the pro atmosphere as well as for the college season. I give Reading a lot of credit for getting me prepared the last two college seasons."
Aside from being heavily scouted by Philadelphia, another benefit for Gaddis of playing with Reading has been the ability to attend several Union matches at PPL Park. On top of experiencing an atmosphere that Gaddis praised on several occasions, he was able to study the club's style of play first-hand. As a result, he knows the type of environment he's entering.
"I think it's a well structured style of play," Gaddis said. "Coath Nowak, coach Hackworth and the staff, I think they do an exceptional job. I've been watching how [Nowak] rotates players in and out, how he keeps his team healthy. I've been to games in the new stadium [and have seen] how they just motivate. You can see how he gets the most out of players."
For West Virginia University, Gaddis earned second team all-BIG EAST honors as a senior, and was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List prior to the 2011 season after being named a third team All-American by TopDrawerSoccer in 2010. Gaddis registered six assists in 73 career games at West Virginia.
Now with the Union, Gaddis figures to slot in as Sheanon Williams' back-up at right back. That depth may come in handy should Williams miss time with the U-23 Olympic team, which appears to be a likely outcome considering Williams has been called by head coach Caleb Porter for all three offseason training camps in preparation for Olympic qualifying in March.
While right back is his natural position, however, Gaddis is willing to play wherever and whenever his services are needed.
"I play right back but wherever Philadelphia Union want to play me I'm willing to play," Gaddis said. "I love the game of soccer. It's my passion, it's everything – it's my life basically."
As a professional, Gaddis' life will certainly revolve around soccer 24/7. He understands that he still has much to learn.
"I think I just have to take it one day at a time and just listen to the coaching staff," he said. "Honestly, their guidance will help me and [I need to] listen to my other teammates who have already been here.
"I'm looking forward to preseason and becoming a professional player. It's always been a dream of mine."
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