Summer 2022

FC Cincinnati's Ray Gaddis preparing for new chapter with focus on God

Though veteran defender Ray Gaddis enters the 2022 Major League Soccer season in unfamiliar surroundings for the first time in a decade, his new home features some familiar faces.

Gaddis, who announced his retirement in March 2021 after nine seasons with the Philadelphia Union, signed with FC Cincinnati less than a year later. The club underwent significant change this offseason, bringing in a new general manager and head coach.

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The general manager, Chris Albright, was Gaddis’ teammate for two years in Philadelphia before moving into the Union’s front office. Head coach Pat Noonan was an assistant for the Union in Gaddis’ last three seasons with the team.

Albright and Noonan know exactly what they are getting in Gaddis, who left Philadelphia as the club’s all-time leader in MLS regular-season appearances (221), starts (211) and minutes played (18,702).

“When Ray stepped away from the game a year ago, he was arguably playing at the highest level of his career,” Albright said last month in the release announcing Gaddis’ arrival. “He’s a lockdown defender and with the ability to play both outside-back positions. His character and leadership are second-to-none, and he will be an excellent addition to the group.”

His character and leadership qualities stem from his faith in Christ. Gaddis grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, in a family of devout churchgoers. He is outspoken about his faith and made a point of giving thanks to God at the beginning of his retirement announcement.

“I first and foremost want to thank God for allowing me to have the career I’ve had,” he said. “I’m truly blessed to have played professionally for nine seasons and for the experiences, friendships and unique moments that have come with it.”

 

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The 32-year-old is one of the spiritual leaders within the entire MLS, and worked with Union team chaplain Andy Young to start an organization called MLS Connect during the MLS is Back Tournament in the summer of 2020. What began as a way to help players cope with being isolated in a bubble, turned into a monthly meeting when teams returned home.

Anyone who knows Gaddis would not be surprised to hear he was at the center of a league-wide faith movement.

“Ray has more scripture memorized than anyone I’ve ever met or heard of in my entire life, and that is not an exaggeration,” Young said in an interview for the Spring 2021 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine. “It’s unbelievable. And it’s King James, and it’s word for word.”

Cincinnati will lean heavily on Gaddis’ on-field experience after finishing with the worst record in MLS its first two seasons in the league. In his final season in Philadelphia, Gaddis helped the Union lift the Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the best regular-season record.

Gaddis’ life looks much different than it did 11 months ago, but at least one thing has stayed the same.

“God’s always made time for me, so I must make time for Him.” Gaddis said in the magazine story. “He is my priority. I know that I’m able to do all the things that I’ve been able to do because of the great I Am.”

FC Cincinnati begins its 2022 season Saturday night when it hosts Austin FC.

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