Albeit frustrating, defender Gaddis knows one can't have success in MLS without struggle

Team success, not individual driving force for Union's Ray Gaddis

 

Stories have been done on just how humble Ray Gaddis is.

It’s well documented that the Union defender keeps his nose to the grindstone with an affable nature that makes it nearly impossible to say anything negative about him.

Are there flaws in his game? Of course there are, nobody’s perfect and Gaddis works tirelessly to perfect them. His positives far outweigh his misfortunes however; if you were to poll a collective of MLS forwards and asked them who is one of the best shutdown 1v1 defenders in Major League Soccer today, no doubt Gaddis’ name comes up in that equation.

“He got me,” D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson said during a recent interview. “I mean you look at him and you think ‘oh he’s small, I can beat him,’ then the next thing you know he’s taken the ball off you clean and on the attack the other way. Ray is no joke; it’s obvious in the way he plays that he loves the game and works very hard to be good at it.”

Gaddis was selected with the 35th pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of West Virginia

John Hackworth knew it.

When the Union manager drafted Gaddis at No. 35 overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, he knew he’d invested in a quality talent. Gaddis was coming off an injury he sustained at his alma mater West Virginia earlier in the season, one that if it weren’t for him missing MLS' Combine that year, Hackworth and his staff might have never gotten a chance to pick him up with its final selection of the day.

Following that draft, Hackworth told the Philadelphia Daily News that Gaddis who played for the Union's developmental affiliate in Reading United was “a steal.”

He still believes it immensely.

“He is the model of consistency, which is really important when you are playing at this level,” Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com. “It’s funny that we aren’t talking about Ray as a [preeminent] starter because over the last two years he’s probably one of the most consistent guys we can put on the field.”

Seems logical, but at the same time going by what the Union had on paper, one had to wonder exactly where Gaddis would crack Hackworth’s Starting XI. On the left, the club had Brazilian Fabinho, who was crafty and could hit a lethal in-swinging ball into the danger area. On the right, it’s been Sheanon Williams, who is few months shy from being a Union original and has logged close to 10,000 minutes in MLS play.

Gaddis, a naturally right footed player would have to beat out Williams – admittedly not an easy task – or go after Fabinho’s role playing out of position and on his weaker left foot.

No pressure.

“The idea that you had Fabinho and Sheanon, I think Ray  at the moment has played his way into being the most consistent of the three of them,” Hackworth said. “That speaks volumes about what Ray does as a professional athlete because we are talking about two quality players. He constantly strives to improve, he watches a ton of video and he’s very honest about his own performances, which gives him a chance to analyze and recognize those specific parts of his game that he needs to work on.”

Oh by the way: Gaddis has played every minute in every single MLS match (14 at the time of this report) for the Union this season.

Plenty of work to be done

When it comes to his craft, Gaddis takes even the most menial detail seriously.

If he gets a fresh pair of cleats he borrows a ball from the equipment staff and hits the pitch to juggle and do some cone drills -- just to break them in. He meets with Union assistant coach Mike Sorber weekly to go over game film and takes that same film home and watches it for hours, taking notes.

It would be okay for some to just say that they made it to the professional ranks of their sport, but that is not the case for Gaddis. Though the 2014 MLS campaign has been a daunting one for Gaddis and the rest of the Union, Gaddis, who is also well documented for being strong in his faith firmly, believes that he and this current Union collective is destined for great things.

Gaddis has been in the Union Starting XI for every MLS match at this point in the season compiling 1260 minutes after 14 matches

But much like his own career, it’s just going to take a little work for that notion to come to fruition.

“From a team standpoint, being in the situation we are in now is not where I want to be,” Gaddis said prior to the team’s West Coast trip to Los Angeles. “We all want to be and feel like we should be higher in the [standings] right now and it’s been difficult not having these results go our way. For me, I came into this season with my head down and a plan to work extremely hard. I’ve always been taught that hard work and attention to detail will always pay off. It’s about staying modest and staying humble. As a player, even though it’s hard at times, you always have to remain positive.”

It’s a privilege to play a professional sport. The human body has its limits, but a select few put theirs to the test for their sport day in and day out.

Ray Gaddis has been one of the lucky ones.

“I still want to strengthen my composure on the ball,” said Gaddis. “I want to continue to work on my field awareness, and playing on the left side of the field has helped me to think about more than one option or to pick my head up and see all the angles. Also defensive shape is really important. As a defender, you can really never stop working on your defensive shape and learning to play against all different types of opposition.”

Gaddis paused and then added:

“I just take all of this as a tremendous honor,” said Gaddis. “To be able to step on the field every game, I do take a lot of pride. A lot of people would like to be a professional soccer player, so when I step on the field, I don’t take it for granted at all.”

And while this season hasn’t been one to congratulate the hard work both he and his teammates have put in day in and day out on the practice field, it’s the notion that the club’s current woes are temporary that keeps Raymon Gaddis going strong.

What do you think of the play of Ray Gaddis? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com