Season Reviews

Season review: Ray Gaddis

Photo: Earl Gardner

“I will play with every ounce of energy for my team.”

Ray Gaddis’ humble team-first attitude has made him a beloved figure in the Philadelphia Union locker room and amongst the PPL Park faithful. No one in the Union’s ever growing fan base will question the former second round pick’s work ethic or commitment to the club. Don’t let the bow tie that he dons following a match fool you. Gaddis is a fiery competitor who plays with as much hustle and determination in the 90th minute as he does at the opening whistle.

He is the guy that everyone wants on their team.

Gaddis entered the 2013 season knowing he would have to compete with Sheanon Williams for time at right back. Though he was unable to unseat Williams at right back, Gaddis wound up starting 31 matches for the Zolos at left back.

The naturally right-footed player struggled at times on the left side of the Union’s back line, finding himself targeted by the opposition as they went on the attack. More often than not, Gaddis’ play was more than serviceable, helping the Union’s defense record a club high 12 clean sheets this season.

The improvement in his play over the course of the season made him one of first names on John Hackworth’s line-up card each week as the Union made their push to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs.

High Point Gaddis 2013 stats

Down a man and with the club’s playoff dreams fading fast in the waning minutes of a dour, spiritless match against lowly Toronto FC, Gaddis saved the day when he scuttled two late and very dangerous counterattacks by TFC. Off a Union corner, the Reds launched a dangerous counter led by Robert Earnshaw. Sprinting the length of the pitch, the former Reading United defender caught Earnshaw, took a great line and erased Toronto’s goal scoring opportunity, thus setting up Kleberson’s dramatic last gasp free-kick winner.

Low Point

The Union’s encounter with the defending MLS Cup champions, the LA Galaxy, will be a match Ray Gaddis and everyone else in Union blue and gold will want to erase from their memories. With little to no midfield support, the Galaxy’s superstar tandem of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane abused Gaddis for much of the game. On each of the Galaxy’s three second half goals, the converted left back was caught out of position by drifting too far towards the center of the pitch.

Strengths

Without question, Gaddis’ speed is his greatest asset. While still learning and adjusting to playing left back, Gaddis will turn on the jets to make up for an error. Sebastien Le Toux, another high motor player on the Union roster said, “He’s one of the fastest players, if not the fastest player on our team.”

Gaddis is an excellent one-on-one defender. The second year man takes on his marks and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones was Gaddis’ most high profile victim, as the young defender straight up embarrassed the Premier League hit man.

Weakness

There is no secret here, Ray Gaddis is not a natural left-sided player. Union manager John Hackworth admitted as much on the November 15 edition of the Philly Soccer Show saying, “It’s not his true position. Going into the season, I don’t think any of us, even Ray, thought that was going to be a position that he would have played the number of minutes that he did the previous year.”

The young defender may work his tail off, but when he’s deployed at left back, the Union cede much of the left side of the field. Gaddis’ inability to launch crosses into the opponent’s penalty area without cutting back to his right foot hindered the Union attack.

Outlook

Though it has meant playing out of position, the former West Virginia Mountaineer embraced his chance to start for the Philadelphia Union on a weekly basis. Only four other Union outfield regulars played more minutes than Gaddis in 2013.

The Union coaching staff continues to heap praise on Gaddis’ positive workmanlike attitude. They talk about the second year man’s tremendous work ethic, dedication to the club and the positive influence he has in the locker room. But the one nagging fact remains: Ray Gaddis is not a true left back.

The Union will be looking to upgrade the position this winter. Whether that upgrade comes via a signing, a trade or the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Gaddis is likely to find himself fighting for his place in Philadelphia’s starting XI again this preseason. Should Gaddis get pushed to the bench, his ability to step in at right back or left back immediately adds some much needed depth to the Union’s back line.

Another distinct possibility for the converted left back is a trade out of town. Gaddis has tremendous value as a young right back on a salary budget-friendly contract. As much as the Union coaching staff would hate losing a player of Gaddis’ caliber, he could bring very good value in return.

9 Comments

  1. I think it’s very likely that Ray gets traded this offseason. I like the guy and think he did a decent job playing out of position, but he will have a lot of value to teams in need of a RB at a bargain salary.
    .
    The other reality is that we’re going to have two expansion teams coming very soon, and it’s going to be difficult to protect two right backs. I would think Ray would be a very likely candidate to be picked by an expansion club if he were unprotected.
    .
    I’d love for the Union to keep Gaddis since he’s a quality option to have on the bench, but we may have to face reality and try to maximize his value in order to improve other positions.

    • +1 on all of this. I love Ray Gaddis, and I think he is really an excellent young right back who will continue to get even better. And if the Union kept him next year, it’d give them something they have never had: defensive depth. He can effectively be the fill-in for anyone on the back line who goes down (since Sheanon moves into the CB position when needed).

      But with 2 expansion teams coming down the pike the year after next, Gaddis would be a prime target to get plucked off the vine, and then we get nothing. My worry is that his true value might not be recognized by other teams, but if it is, and we can get something useful for him, then a trade may be best.

      What a steal he was in the 2nd round of the expansion draft!

  2. I love Ray as much as the next guy, but how on earth do you get to the professional level without being able to use your left foot? I hope he spends the entire offseason walking around with a ball that he’s only allowed to hit with his left. He should be opening jars and brushing his teeth with his left foot until March for that matter. If he could improve on his left, he could easily be an MLS all-star in a few years, potentially even take his game overseas. If there’s anyone with the work ethic to do it, you know it’s Ray!

  3. Southside Johnny says:

    I started the season groaning whenever he was announced at LB. I also felt for him when he was targeted and and abused by so many teams. He was not only out of his natural spot, but often left to cleanup for the midfield with seemingly little direction from Parke and less from Carroll. This kid has a ton of heart, character, class and willingness to learn. I will take a guy like him over gifted head cases every time. With a better left foot he could be a star. I would be happy to see him back, but he deserves better than we have given him.

  4. I think his low point was when he took the hand ball penalty against RSL in the 95th minute that cost 2 points.

  5. I think if we get the right value for him, sure, trade him. As you say, he will go in the expansion draft if we don’t, and we can always pick up a Brandon barklage or Dan gargan(local!!!) as a cheap back up right back.

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