More than halfway through the Major League Soccer season, everyone is still chasing FC Cincinnati. The club won 12 of its first 16 games and tied an MLS record by starting the season with 10 straight home victories, a run that ended with a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution on July 1.
Among the team’s key contributors is veteran defender Ray Gaddis, who is one of three Cincinnati players to appear in every game this season. He spent the first nine years of his career with the Philadelphia Union before briefly retiring in 2021. He came out of retirement to join Cincinnati in 2022, and he made his 250th MLS appearance earlier this season.
Gaddis played in 23 contests last year as his club beat the New York Red Bulls in Cincinnati’s first MLS playoff game (it joined MLS in 2019). The dramatic improvement in 2022 led to increased expectations for 2023 that have proven to be entirely justified.
Back in October, Gaddis was named the team’s Humanitarian of the Year as part of the end-of-season awards voted on by Cincinnati’s technical staff.
“For me, coming here, this was always the plan — to move the needle here at FCC,” Gaddis said in the press release announcing the award. “I couldn’t have asked or written it up any better. Being integrated into the team and the players accepting me, the fan base accepting me, as well as the community of Cincinnati. It’s been great, not only on the field, but socially off the field. And I think that contributed to a lot of the success and a lot of the things I was able to do on the field as well.”
His passion for community service is driven by his faith in God. Gaddis grew up in the church and has always made faith a priority in his life.
View this post on Instagram
“When I continue to seek Him first, He begins to give me energy. He gives me the wisdom, the knowledge,” Gaddis said in an interview for the Spring 2021 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine. “He begins to give me understanding of what to do in the places that He has put me.”
During the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020, Gaddis provided spiritual leadership by helping start MLS Connect. The goal was for players to connect with each other, connect with Jesus and connect with mission while in a “bubble” for the tournament because of COVID-19. It was available to all MLS players and became so popular that it continued when teams began playing in their home markets again.
Last August, Gaddis partnered with a nonprofit organization called Bigger Than Sneakers to help provide resources for Saturday Hoops, which is a faith-based youth mentoring program in Cincinnati. He is also a founding member of Black Players for Change, an organization that focuses on promoting racial justice both inside and outside soccer.
“I think it’s my obligation for the next generation of people who look like me, to be a wealth of knowledge but also give my experiences of how people who don’t look like me can be advocates too,” Gaddis said in the magazine story. “In this whole realm of the social justice thing, one thing that I’ve always said is that it’s going to take people who don’t look like me to be advocates to create the change that we want to see collectively in society.”
The 33-year-old knows his professional soccer career is a gift from God and strives to live in a way that reflects that.
View this post on Instagram
“God’s always made time for me, so I must make time for Him,” he 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.”
Gaddis and FC Cincinnati are back in action against Charlotte FC on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
— FC Cincinnati’s Ray Gaddis preparing for new chapter with focus on God
— Philadelphia’s Ray Gaddis announces retirement, thanks God for 9-year career
— As MLS returns, Philadelphia’s Ray Gaddis trusts Christ for racial change
— Philadelphia Union defender Ray Gaddis glorifies God through soccer