Union rookie Gaddis suddenly a draft day delight

CHESTER, Pa. – Heading into the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, the Philadelphia Union identified Raymon Gaddis as one of the best collegiate right backs in the country.

But because the West Virginia product played as a holding midfielder in the final few games of the 2011 season due to an injury he sustained in a 2-0 win over UConn on Oct. 18, it appeared other teams were not as high on him. He wasn’t even invited to the MLS Combine.

After two straight terrific performances for the Philadelphia Union – who gladly scooped him with the 35th overall (and fourth to last) pick in the SuperDraft – it’s probably fair to say that no one is questioning his abilities any more.

“The injury set me back,” Gaddis told MLSsoccer.com. “And a lot of people had some doubts.”

The Union, it seemed, never had those doubts – in large part because Gaddis showcased his speed and talent with Philadelphia affiliate Reading United during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

The club also knew they needed some depth on the backline, which has come in very handy over the past two weeks with Gaddis filling in admirably for injured center back Danny Califf. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Union won their first two games of the season – and set a club record with a 332-minute shutout streak – upon Gaddis’ inclusion in the lineup.

“It’s a very exciting time for me,” the rookie right back said. “I’m glad I can contribute to the team and help the team move in the right direction with back-to-back wins.”

While Gaddis did very well in his MLS debut against Columbus on April 14, he was even better in Philly’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA last Saturday, especially when the Union went down to nine men for the game’s final 10 minutes and still managed to preserve the shutout.

“I haven’t been in a situation quite like that before,” Gaddis said. “The team was very composed. We stayed together as a unit the whole time. Obviously, it was a lot harder, but I thought we did a good job of staying together. I thought we killed a lot of their opportunities just because of how organized we were as a unit and a team.”

Of course, Gaddis will likely return to the bench when Califf returns from his hamstring injury. But the rookie has already shown a lot through his first two MLS games and has put himself in a position for success in this league for years to come.

Does he feel like he’s surprised some people, especially after slipping so late in the draft?

“I don’t really think like that,” Gaddis said. “If they’re surprised, they’re surprised. I’m very confident in my ability. I just try to go out there and showcase it and help the team in any way I can.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.