CHESTER, Pa. – At the beginning of the preseason, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth declared, in no unequivocal terms, that Gabriel Farfan would be the club’s starting left back.
But when the season began Saturday, Hackworth opted to start second-year speedster Ray Gaddis at left back and push Farfan into the midfield. Not only that, the Union boss asked Gaddis to try to contain one of the league’s best players in Graham Zusi.
Despite the fact that Zusi finished with a goal and two assists in a 3-1 loss, Hackworth believed the move worked out for the best.
“He played very well defensively and he had one of the best guys in our league to try to negate,” Hackworth said of Gaddis. “He did a great job.”
Gaddis was certainly better than Zusi’s stats might indicate. One of Zusi’s assists came on a free kick and the other was a secondary assist. And the SKC midfielder’s first-half goal came on a rebound attempt in which Gaddis had already run behind Union goalie Zac MacMath to try to protect the goal line.
WATCH: Zusi pounces on loose ball
“I don’t think he had any space in the second half. I think he had a free kick in the second half,” Gaddis said. “For the most part, the coaching staff told me what I was supposed to do and that was to contain Zusi – and I thought I did that the majority for the game.”
Gaddis also showed the kind of speed that makes him such an intriguing option on the backline. In the first half, he was arguably one of the best – and most active players – on the field as he made long and productive runs forward.
And despite being a natural right back, Gaddis said he’s getting more comfortable in the new position and that he knows how to work well with Gabriel Farfan, who played in front of him on the left wing and will likely continue to play in the midfield as long as Gaddis stays on the backline.
“My off-the-field relationship with Gabe Farfan helps a lot with how we played,” Gaddis said. “Despite the result, I think we did very well on the left side. We communicate on and off the field about what are tendencies are and what we like to do. So I think it helped very much.”