Knowledge for Ray Gaddis this past offseason truly was power.
For starters, the young Union defender knew coming into this year that if he wanted to win a spot on the field it most likely would have to arrive at left back, given Sheanon Williams, the club’s customary right back is playing some of his best soccer as a pro and was the one consistent highlight on the pitch for the Union last season.
Second, while the left spot has been reserved for Gabriel Farfan, the technical staff has long desired to move Farfan back into the midfield – opening up the spot for the best defensive talent on the team to go after it.
All good things, except…
Ray Gaddis will be the first to tell you he’s stronger on his right foot.
It’s been a work in progress to better develop his weaker paw, but Gaddis has shown the tenacity, toughness and willingness to learn that earned him the Opening Day nod at left fullback. And this season, he came into camp with a game as stylish on the field as it is off, as his tailored suits and unique bow ties shows the 23-year-old knows a thing or two about proper haberdashery as well.
“From an individual standpoint, I came out and did what the coaches told me to do,” Gaddis said after last Saturday’s season opener against Sporting Kansas City. “Even playing on the opposite side of the field I am just trying to show that I can play on both sides and I am not shying away from anything when I come out there to play.”
A stance that is obvious from Gaddis who enters every tackle with the maximum effort one can get from 5-9, 151 pound frame. A frame Gaddis added 10 pounds of muscle to during an intense and insightful offseason.
“Me physically, I toned up and tried and added some weight,” Gaddis said following a recent preseason training session. “I worked on my left and right foot. I feel like I am a versatile player and that gives coach Hackworth more options to play me in places that are ideal. I watched every game [from my rookie season] at least two to three times to study what I did wrong and to get better. As a player you are always a student of the game and your goal is to get better in every aspect.”
Against Sporting, Gaddis’ movement off the ball in support was consistently well-timed. In as a defender, Gaddis was an integral piece out of the defensive third that fueled an offensive charge; a charge that for the latter part of the first half fired on all cylinders.
“Ray’s been really good,” said Hackworth. “He was very good defensively, I mean he had arguably one of the best guys in the country and in our league [in Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi] to try and negate and I thought he did a great job.”
In a little over a year, Gaddis went from a quiet steal in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft to a rising commodity along the Union backline. Ask him, and he’ll admit he’s right where he wants to be and where he envisioned his career with the Union.
Even if for now, it’s on the opposite side of the pitch.
“When you play on the opposite site on the field you have to think a lot more, but it also forces you to focus a lot more,” said Gaddis. “[Personally], I think it helps me. I’m not saying I wasn’t focused before playing on the right side, but [being on the left] helps me stay in tune and makes me have to think a lot faster about what the opposition is going to do.
It’s only helping me as a player, being able to see what’s happening on the other side of the field for the future and I am glad I got the opportunity to even earn a start. Yeah, it’s a little bit different, but you have to look at it in a positive because it’s helping my overall game.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org