The Union had hoped to get off to a better start than 2-4-1, but there have been positives in this young Major League Soccer season, and among the most pleasant surprises has been the play of rookie defender Raymon Gaddis.

Even the most ardent fans couldn't have predicted that this second-round draft choice, the No. 35 overall selection in the MLS draft, would make such a significant contribution.

The 22-year-old former West Virginia University product will likely start his fourth consecutive game Saturday at Seattle (5-1-1) with Gabe Farfan sitting out the second of a three-game suspension.

Gaddis isn't flashy, but he has played steadily on the back line and his teammates have loved his attitude. He has shown great respect for his veteran teammates, yet hasn't appeared to be overwhelmed by any situation.

"He's been great," said fellow defender Sheanon Williams.

Gaddis understands that his profile wasn't exceedingly high when he joined the team, but none of that mattered. All he wanted to do was to earn an opportunity and make the most of it.

"In my mind it didn't register that I was under the radar, because I just felt like I needed to play well [and] do everything in a high standard," Gaddis said.

So far that has happened.

While looking comfortable on the field, Gaddis admits he wouldn't have been able to predict the way that things have gone for him in his brief professional career.

"Everything has surprised me from being drafted, all the way to playing in my first MLS game," he said. "You have to stay calm and handle it in a good manner."

Gaddis understands that when Farfan comes back, it could mean he returns to the bench. But he says he isn't feeling any extra pressure to perform well and make an impression on the coaching staff.

"When your name is called you have to be prepared, no matter what," he said. "I don't feel the pressure."

For Gaddis, it's more a sense of duty to perform to his best.

"I feel it's an obligation to play well and help the team win," he said. " . . . It's expectation from the players around me and the coaching staff that when your name is called to play your best and help in any manner you can."

No wonder the coaches and players have enjoyed being around Gaddis. He doesn't say much and listens intently and respectfully to his coaches and teammates.

In a way, Gaddis has been like a sponge, soaking everything in. He says the coaching staff and his teammates have been a tremendous resource that he has leaned on. And most of all, each game has added positively to the learning curve.

"I have definitely gotten a lot more confidence playing every game," he said.

The Union feel that the best is yet to come from Gaddis.

"[Team manager] Peter [Nowak] and the rest of our coaching staff know that he has a lot more to offer," assistant coach John Hackworth said of Gaddis. "From day one, Ray has proven his desire to learn and play at this level. That said, nothing can do that better than game experience and now he is getting that."

And by taking advantage of a chance that few could have forecast in the beginning of the season, Gaddis is playing as if he truly belongs at this level.