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Philadelphia Union veterans proud of Homegrown player progression

Mar 3, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Anthony Fontana (21) celebrates his goal with teammates against the New England Revolution during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

CHESTER, PA– Long before Auston Trusty made his debut for the Philadelphia Union, he was a member of the team’s academy and training with the MLS club on countless occasions.

The then United States under-20 national team defender looked up to experienced Union players, such as fullback Ray Gaddis.

So after getting his first start for the Union on Saturday, Trusty expressed how cool it was to play at Talen Energy Stadium, where he watched Gaddis and others compete in years past.

“Especially growing up as a young kid in Philadelphia and being able to go on this field,” Trusty said Saturday. “I remember back in the day, I used to buy tickets to go see this team play and see some of the players, like Ray Gaddis. Ray Gaddis was my favorite growing up for the Union, and being with him as my teammate and me dreaming about this opportunity and dreaming about this day as a young kid, just visualizing it.

“Even at the games, just visualizing that I could someday be playing on this field, and for it just to happen is truly humbling and amazing. Thankful for everyone in the Academy, the Steel, everyone in the organization.”

Gaddis felt honored hearing that statement from his 19-year-old teammate, but he quickly credited the club’s system for the success of Trusty and other homegrown players.

“I think it’s just indicative of the culture here,” Gaddis said. “It’s preached from the first team all the way down to Bethlehem to our academy. It’s a family. It’s a tight knit group and it’s a honor for him to say that.

“It makes me more happy that he was listening or he was watching to see what it takes to be a professional. I was more excited for him and [Anthony] Fontana, two homegrown players that debuted well for us and got us off to the right start that we needed this season. That made me more happy that they were listening and Trusty saying that meant a lot.”

While Gaddis and left back Fabinho might not feature in starting roles like they have in the past, they still play an important role at the club by competing with the younger players in training each day.

It’s a responsibility Gaddis, who has 144 appearances since 2012 for the Union, embraces as the club’s focus shifts more toward academy talent.

“I think it would be irresponsible for players such as Fabinho and myself not to integrate the culture of how to be a professional at this level,” Gaddis said. “It’s very different at every stage that you are a player. I think it’s been preached from our head coach Jim Curtin since I’ve been here to integrate the guys.

“You never know who’s listening to you or who is paying attention to you. You have to be a primary example of what you can say a Union player is and it’s just an example of what the club is doing and our responsibility to be professionals and them watching us and now it’s translating. It’s a great feeling for them.”

Gaddis loves watching the success of academy products. When asked about the debuts of Trusty and Fontana in Week 1, a wide-faced grin broke out on his face as he praises the two key assets for the club’s future.

“It says a lot about the academy and the development,” Gaddis said. “It says a lot about the integration of academy players getting first-team trainings and when the time is right, and I’m not paid to make these decisions, when it’s time for them to get signed, they sign. 

“It means a lot. It’s weird, but I’ve seen these guys — Fontana, Mark McKenzie, Trusty, Derrick Jones — when they were 14,15, 16,  and now to have them as teammates is a great honor. It’s a responsibility to continue to bring them along.”

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