- By Grant Dovey
- April 17, 2012 10:20 AM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For those who have spoken to Raymon Gaddis, they are quick to notice his calm and cool demeanor.
Anyone who watched Gaddis patrol the right side of the pitch for four seasons at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium would tell you Gaddis was the most athletic and intense player in each match.
His intense approach provides a happy medium that has led him into the starting lineup for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.
The former West Virginia University standout practiced much of last week with the first team in place of starting right back Sheanon Williams, who was nursing a lip injury. Gaddis then found himself in Saturday’s starting lineup against the Columbus Crew when, shortly before kickoff, starting center back and captain Danny Califf was scratched because of a hamstring strain.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it,” Gaddis said. “I wasn’t nervous because I’ve been playing soccer my whole life and have good teammates beside me who were encouraging me, as well as the coaching staff.”
The absence of Califf meant Williams moved to the center back and Gaddis would have to quickly prepare and fill in for Williams at his natural right back position. Ray not only filled in admirably, but he played the entire 90 minutes, including extra time, helping the Union to their first victory of the season with a 1-0 win over the Crew.
Despite having played in numerous preseason games and one reserve league game against the New England Revolution, Gaddis knew that he would have to quickly adapt to the play of the first team.
“I had to get my feet under me just because I hadn’t played in a game with the first team,” Gaddis said. “I was excited and was trying to get the ball as much as possible those first couple of minutes to get my touches underneath me and get comfortable with the pace of the game.
“My teammates kept feeding me the ball, and toward the end of the game, I really got comfortable and it came to me pretty easily.”
Gaddis’ performance drew praise from Coach Peter Novak, which is even more impressive considering the lack of time that Gaddis has had to adjust to the pro style of play.
Gaddis played his final game for the Mountaineers on Nov. 20, graduated on Dec. 9, was drafted by the Union on Jan. 12 before reporting for preseason on Jan. 25. Three months later, he was starting his first pro game.
“I came into the program pretty open-minded because not all coaches coach the same way,” Gaddis said. “You may be in a different formation than you have been in before. It also is important to be open-minded with the people you play with. You have to learn to adjust quickly to the people on your team.”
Prior to the draft, Gaddis had familiarity with the Union staff, especially reserve team head coach Brendan Burke, who was Gaddis’ coach while he played in the summer of 2010 at nearby Reading United A.C. The familiarity with the team’s 4-4-2 formation also helps, but Gaddis thinks that WVU Coach Marlon LeBlanc’s scheduling is what prepared him for the next level.
“Coach LeBlanc does a tremendous job of making sure the schedule is up to par for his players,” Gaddis explained. “A lot of the players I played against in college, more or less BIG EAST players, have gone pro and are doing very well at the next level.
“From day one, Coach LeBlanc prepared me by surrounding me with good players and playing against the talent we did. I feel that I wasn’t as nervous to play in Saturday’s game because I played in big games during college."
Just 22, as Gaddis continues to grow as a person and as a soccer player, he has yet to realize what he has accomplished and will hopefully take time following the season to reflect.
“It hasn’t quite hit me yet because I think I have a lot of work to do still,” Gaddis said. “I graduated, went to the draft, had preseason, and then the season started. I haven’t had a lot to celebrate because I have had a lot happen since December.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m sure it’ll catch up with me at the end of the season, and I feel I have a lot to accomplish still.”
West Virginia University
Major League Soccer