Ray Gaddis is the quintessential walking inspiration to any young professional athlete.
The Union defender is a living model to the old adage that if you work hard, good things eventually will happen.
Earlier this week, the Union technical staff rewarded Gaddis’ dutiful day-to-day by signing him to a new multi-year contract. Per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed, but philadelphiaunion.com has learned that Gaddis’ new deal will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2016 season at a price tag that technical director Chris Albright would only offer is “commensurate with Ray’s performance and abilities moving forward.”
“I think from the beginning, Ray has carried himself the right way,” said Albright. “Off the field, I think he’s been a great citizen; he’s done a lot of things in the community that everybody in the front office can speak to. But in our business, those qualities often go unnoticed if you’re not performing on the field, and he’s done that as well. Ray’s God-given ability – his athleticism and his speed – is something you can’t teach. Certainly [interim manager] Jim [Curtin] would say the same thing. I think his ability to be able to shut down opposing attacking midfielders or opposing wingers is a specialty. That being said, what you would call Ray’s deficiencies a couple of years ago, he’s improved on tremendously. And that speaks to his work rate and the way he approaches being a professional.”
In a season where it was uncertain if Gaddis would consistently crack the starting XI with Sheanon Williams playing in Gaddis’ customary right back role and Fabinho ending the 2013 season as the starter on the left, Gaddis’ hustle has not only allowed him to start, but play all but nine minutes in all 27 of the Union’s MLS matches this season. Gaddis’ ability to shut down defenders playing either on the right or left side of the pitch is nothing short of remarkable.
“First of all, when you talk about Ray, I get a smile on my face because this is one of the things I’m most happy about in my short tenure as the coach to get him rewarded for all his hard work,” said Curtin following Tuesday’s training session. “Off the field, this is a tribute to his parents. They’ve raised a kid who has as good of character as I’ve ever seen in a human being. In terms of accepting challenges and taking on new roles – playing left back without complaining, working after practice every day on his weak foot and finding ways to get better – he does everything you ask and more.”
But to ask Gaddis, his personal achievements still don’t outweigh the possibility of helping the Union chase an Open Cup title on Sept. 16 against Seattle (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets) in addition to making MLS’ postseason for a second time in club history.
“I don’t really think too much about it. It’s just a blessing and I think [the coaches] are familiar with what I can do now in my third year. It speaks dividends about the organization and taking care of its players. But right now my focus is to win against Red Bulls and then win the Open Cup – get this first trophy for the Philadelphia Union and then make the playoffs.”
So what does the future hold for Ray Gaddis? Ask his coaches and they’ll tell you that a national team look could be in sight. Which is music to Gaddis’ ears, who told philadelphiaunion.com during this summer’s FIFA World Cup that he’d like to be in U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye ahead of 2018, the next installment of the World Cup.
“He’ll be a guy that if he stays on this pathway, he’ll be a U.S. Men’s National type player,” Curtin said. “He’ll be a January camp guy and I think he can break into that – he’s that good. One-on-one with the ball, Ray Gaddis is the best defender in our league right now. I will go out and say that – and I believe it. But he’ll be the first to tell you he still has room to grow and work on things with the ball in the air. But he’s the same guy that is the first to ask after practice to work on that stuff.”
“He should be the guy a lot of young kids look up to because he treats the game with respect. He brings it every day in training and it’s my happiest moment, so far, as a head coach.”
As for Gaddis:
“I think God played a big part in this,” he said. “Being in the right place at the right time and just being patient paid off. “The team really helped me mold as a player. Like I’ve said, you can always get better and I think that’s been instilled in me since I was a kid.”
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org