CHESTER, Pa. – The news didn’t come as a complete shock to Raymon Gaddis.
After all, the rookie defender practiced much of the week with the first team because of a lip injury to Sheanon Williams.
Then shortly before kickoff against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, captain and defender Danny Califf was scratched with a hamstring strain.
“I wasn’t really too surprised because the coaching staff has always told me to be ready,” said Gaddis, the 35th overall selection by the Union in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. “I’ve been practicing really hard and doing everything the coaches have asked of me. I’m very happy that they have the confidence in me.
“I was prepared when I was told before the game. I felt like that preparation helped. It felt great to get the start and help my team get a win.”
Gaddis not only played but went the full 90 minutes plus stoppage time in a crucial 1-0 victory for the Union, their first three-point effort of the season.
“It’s a great start for the youngster,” manager Peter Nowak said.
Getting the news so quickly before kickoff didn’t leave much time to be nervous. Or anxious.
That had to be advantageous for Gaddis.
“I would say so,” he said. “I felt confident and strong and my teammates had a lot of trust in me. I have a lot of faith. I felt like I was into the flow and I got a few touches in the beginning. Honestly, having not played an MLS game yet, I didn’t know about the flow until I had the game experience. I thought the game pace was going to be faster than it was. I was able to get into the flow pretty quickly.”
Gaddis also relied on his teammates for support.
“My teammates were very helpful, supportive and encouraging,” said Gaddis, who played for Union PDL affiliate Reading United in 2010 and ’11. “Guys like Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams, Zac MacMath, they helped to ease the transition for me. They gave me great advice and helped me out with so many things.”
Williams spoke to Gaddis one-on-one at halftime.
It wasn’t that long ago that Williams was making his first career start with the Union. He remembers the feeling like it was yesterday.
“I talked to him and gave him encouragement,” Williams said. “I remember my first game and how nervous I was. Ray found out and didn’t have the proper warmup that you usually get. I thought he did a great job for his first game. I tried to help him as much as I could. He has a lot of confidence and played great and the experience is only going to help him. You never want to see a teammate get injured, but you have to be ready and I thought Ray was ready today.”
Carroll has spent plenty of time on the practice field with Gaddis. The veteran midfielder wasn’t shocked to see a steady performance in the rookie’s first career start.
“Ray practiced a good bit with the first team this week with Sheanon banged up and he did a very good job,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t anything completely foreign to him to see his name in the lineup. I thought he did a very good job and played very well.”
There’s a long season ahead and Gaddis is hoping for more opportunities to showcase his skills and help the club win.
“Whatever the coaching staff asks, I will do and I will just continue to work as hard as I possibly can,” Gaddis said. “I feel like I have the greatest teammates here and I’m a team player. It takes a team effort to win and I was happy to be part of it.”
WATCH: Nowak discusses Califf late scratch