When Ray Gaddis’s named was announced as the 35th pick of the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, two things have been a constant in his soccer life. Philadelphia Union and Head Coach Jim Curtin.

Drafted in the second round out of West Virginia University, Gaddis’ work ethic had him prepared from the start of his nine-year MLS career that spanned 221 appearances, 211 starts and ended with him walking off the field at Subaru Park a champion.

“Few would have guessed he’d become over his great nine-year career the best 1v1 defender our league has seen,” Head Coach Jim Curtin said during Gaddis’s retirement press conference Thursday. “It is very fitting to me that Ray ends his career a champion and we’ll have the moments that we shared together and in particular walking off the field with the Supporters’ Shield and pretty much saying we did it and no one can take that from us because we are champions.”

The journey to leaving as a champion according to Gaddis was formed by his connection with Curtin as the two worked their way up the coaching and depth chart.

“I remember him helping me polish and being tough on me in my early years and watching him go through the ranks,” Gaddis said of head coach. “It was like we were in this together and it was destined for me. It is something that is really dear to my heart but him to see everything come to the forefront for us, a Philly guy and a player’s coach is amazing for me. I’m just grateful to know Coach Curtin and his family and for pushing me to be a better man on and off the field.”

Ray’s ability to always be ready for whatever was needed for the club isn’t lost on Curtin or the fans. When the Union needed the right back to go to the other side of the pitch, Ray was there.

“An example for all young players in so many ways, number one being that you bring it everyday in training because you never know when your number is going to be called upon,” Curtin said. “When Ray’s number was called when he was early in his career, he made it impossible for coaches to take him out of the lineup. Whether he was asked to play right back or left back, as a starter or a reserve, he always did everything to prepare himself but the young players that were maybe getting a start too. He always looked to help and do what was best for the team.”