Gaddis doesn’t need to score to be effective
CHESTER » When Union manager Jim Curtin penciled Ray Gaddis into the starting lineup in Montreal last Saturday, he expected the veteran to provide a lockdown presence at the back in unfriendly environs.
He didn’t expect Gaddis to stream forward in the 15th minute and lash a shot on goal from 20 yards out, no mean feat for a team that has found offense hard to come by and hadn’t scored in its first four road games of the season. And he didn’t necessarily count on, in the perpetual search for that ever elusive “final ball,” that Gaddis would provide one in the 43rd minute, a cross right to the head of Cory Burke for what proved to be the game-winner in a 2-0 victory.
“When I saw him fly forward early in the first half, I think it was Andrew Farrell who had just scored his first goal for his career,” Curtin said Wednesday with a little mirth in his voice. “I don’t believe Ray has one. You start to see him run forward like that and you think, maybe he’s got it in him to go score a goal. He took what the defense gave him on that play.”
Gaddis doesn’t have a goal, not that that’s much news. The fullback has played 151 games in MLS; his assist to Burke was the seventh of his career. He’s played the seventh-most games in MLS history without a goal — that honor goes to Toronto defender Jason Hernandez, who is at 288 and counting. Next in Gaddis’ sights are Rusty Pierce (155 scoreless games from 200007 with three teams) and Carlos Mendes (158 from 2005-12 with the Red Bulls and Columbus).
Curtin referenced Farrell, the New England defender who this season scored his first MLS goal in more than 160 games in the league. That kind of droughtending wasn’t in the offing for Gaddis Saturday, but his contributions far exceed those two numbers on the score sheet.
“Right now, I think not only for myself but everybody, whoever scores, that’s great,” Gaddis said Thursday. “But we’re thinking about the end result in the column where it says we win the game. I think about winning the game. I don’t care how it goes in or who scores; I care about winning the game more than scoring a goal. If it comes, it’s a blessing but we want to win games.”
Gaddis has made a name in Philly with his ability to contribute without getting on the score sheet, and it’s come with remarkable resilience. Curtin regards him as among the best oneon-one defenders in the league, and while he’s not the most dynamic outside back in terms of his ability to attack and defend, he’s a known commodity. Curtin can depend on what he’s going to get when Gaddis plays: Steady defense, lots of hustle and leadership.
With a passel of more skilled players on the Union roster who have underachieved, that certainty is even more welcomed in the right circumstances, like a daunting away game in Montreal.
“Every game’s different,” Gaddis said. “We take what the opposing team is giving you. It was a good team performance. It wasn’t necessarily me; it was a collective group performance. The team, everybody played well, and that’s what I take from it. Everybody played their role leading up to it, and I just did my job.”
Resilience is also something Gaddis has in abundance. He’s been blown back and forth by the winds of favor in Philadelphia — going from the out-andout starter at right back in 2015 to being replaced and moved to the left in 2016 with the arrival of Keegan Rosenberry. When Rosenberry slumped last year, Gaddis stepped into the void, making 23 starts.
This season, he’s primarily served as the reserve full back, deputizing on the left to spell Fabinho during his knee-injury absence and dips in form from the young Matt Real. Whatever the change, Gaddis has handled it like a professional. He’s secure in what he’s accomplished in his eight seasons with the Union (the team’s longest tenured player) and draws strength from his many off-field interests, including involvement in the community and with his Christian faith.
“I just think coach Curtin expects certain things out of me,” Gaddis said. “Of course we needed a win that week, but every game is different and you have to play every game different because the opponent is different week to week. … I have a really good team around me and my teammates are exceptional and they keep me prepared from game to game. So when it’s time to get prepared for a game, it’s easy.”
This week’s game doesn’t shape up as one that might favor Gaddis. At home against Real Salt Lake Saturday night (7, PHL17), Curtin is apt to turn to Fabinho, who can give him more attacking punch on the left side. If Gaddis’ number is called, though, he’ll do what he’s done more than a hundred times in the past, a process that’s
“It just was a game where you play the game and you assess what teams are giving our team,” Gaddis said. “Soccer’s very much like chess. I’m just thankful for teammates that put me in good position to do things that are going to help me in that week.”
Ray Gaddis may be scoreless in his MLS career, but the has found other ways to be productive for the Union. veteran fullback