Hard-working young fullback Ray Gaddis coming of age for playoff-chasing Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, Pa. – With Sheanon Williams (yellow-card accumulation) and Fabinho (red card) suspended, the Philadelphia Union will have only one true fullback on their roster for their upcoming match against D.C. United on Saturday at RFK Stadium (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Luckily for them, that one fullback – Ray Gaddis – is coming off one of the best games of his career.

Throughout much of the second half of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC, Gaddis was the last line of defense, allowing the Union to push numbers forward despite being down a man while preventing Toronto from stealing a goal on the counter-attack.

It’s a responsibility that the second-year defender craves.

“Everyone has their roles they play on the team,” Gaddis told MLSsoccer.com. “That just happens to be my role.”

Because of his speed, Gaddis usually thrives on that role, chasing down attackers trying to break free of the pack after Union corner kicks or other offensive set pieces. But he’s never been put to the test more than he was on Saturday.

The most memorable play came in the 87th minute when, after turning the ball over, Gaddis was able to make up a ton of ground and dispossess a seemingly wide-open Robert Earnshaw in the box. Union manager John Hackworth would call it an “unbelievable defensive play” and the defender’s teammates would credit it for them avoiding a loss.

“Obviously he misjudged the ball a little bit on the corner kick,” said Union goalie Zac MacMath, who earned his 12th shutout of the season with the win. “But with his determination, he backtracked amazingly – 20 yards in a matter of a couple of seconds – stripped the ball off of Earnshaw and kept it in bounds after that. It was pretty incredible hard work by Ray.”

Gaddis said the only thing going through his mind while chasing down Earnshaw was “How bad do you want to make the playoffs?

He’ll likely be thinking the same thing this weekend as the Union travel to D.C. for another critical game, this time without two key defenders.

“We have good team cohesion so I think we’ll be all right still,” Gaddis said. “But those two guys will be missed.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.