“Ray Gaddis doesn’t take days off,” Union assistant coach BJ Callaghan said recently. Callaghan has coached Gaddis for years now – sometimes Gaddis was starting every game at right or left back, and sometimes the West Virginia product was a spot starter, always in the 18 but rarely in the first eleven.
What Callaghan means is that if he gave you footage of Gaddis training, you’d never know whether it was from a season in which he was a full-time starter or one when he spent most of his time on the bench. The fullback is a leader among Union players first and foremost because he represents the club’s internal culture: Hard work, character, belief in yourself and those close to you – this is what Ray Gaddis means to his teammates, and in turn it is what those teammates seek to emulate as their careers develop.
And now that the Union have announced that Gaddis will return to the club in 2019, Philly’s young core will continue to have a guiding light to follow as they learn how to behave like professional athletes each and every day.
In his seven seasons with Philadelphia Union, Gaddis has surpassed 2000 minutes four times and 3000 minutes once; he’s the club’s all-time leader in minutes played and has earned at least one assist in all but one of his professional seasons. Union head coach Jim Curtin praises Gaddis’ isolation defending, and the fullback’s comfort advancing the ball with his feet has improved considerably since he entered the league. Gaddis, in short, has developed both as a player and a person, and he has become a key piece of the Union’s culture.
Ray Gaddis’ role may change in 2019. As Ernst Tanner has already noted, the high-stamina defender is a natural right back even though he spent last season working the left side of the pitch. Tanner has high hopes for Olivier Mbaizo on the right, but Gaddis provides strong competition that can push Mbaizo toward his potential and provide a consistent level of play whenever called upon.
Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of Gaddis’ career is that he has not always been the expected starter in the seasons when he has collected thousands of minutes. Once he had to step up when Keegan Rosenberry struggled defensively. A year later, Curtin called on Gaddis to close down the left side of the pitch when a heavily right-sided attack often resulted in an isolated left side, making 1v1 defending of paramount importance.
This, in the end, is what makes Gaddis more valuable than he appears at first glance: He’s an antidote to the unexpected, and no 34 game season is ever without its surprises.
Whether it’s for his ability to plug holes at the drop of a hat or embody the culture of character the club seeks to foster, Ray Gaddis provides value. He’s done it in the past and he’ll do it again in 2019. And when the Union bring in another left back, as Tanner has indicated they will, that player will see in Gaddis both a competitor for minutes and a prototype of Union values. And that player will be better for having played with Ray Gaddis.
Welcome back, Ray.