Cordell Cato may be new to the Sounders FC and Major League Soccer, but that doesn’t prevent him from taking a veteran’s attitude toward winning championships.
After scoring the game-winning goal in Seattle’s 1-0 triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on Tuesday, Cato said that helping the Sounders to a fourth straight Open Cup title would be a tremendous accomplishment for him, especially considering he hasn’t tasted that championship success yet.
“It’s tremendous, winning it three years in a row and having the opportunity this year to write history and be the first team to win it four years in a row,” Cato said. “For me, it’s even more important because I haven’t won it yet. I’m even more fired up than the whole team.”
The 19-year-old, first-year midfielder from Trinidad used his speed and strength to get the best of a San Jose team that he trialed briefly with before signing with the Sounders.
On his 19th minute goal, he took control on a misplayed ball by the San Jose defense and raced up the right side, getting around defender Justin Morrow on the endline and sliding the low-angled shot past goalkeeper David Bingham for his first competitive goal for the Sounders.
“I just caught the defender flat-footed and got a little bit of space,” Cato said. “When you get that little bit of space and you hit it, sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. This time, I was fortunate.”
His description may sound a bit humble considering his blazing speed and ball skills that seem well beyond his age. Those are the same skills that earned him his first MLS assist in his first appearance, coming off the bench and setting up Fredy Montero for one of his two goals in a 2-0 road win over FC Dallas on May 9.
He has made four more substitute appearances since then in MLS play, notching 85 minutes. As he shows more consistency, those minutes will grow, too, according to head coach Sigi Schmid.
“He’s a player I think we can count on. It started a little slowly for him in preseason,” Schmid said, noting the ankle injuries that kept him from seeing more playing time early in the season. “We always had a lot of faith in him because of his physical capabilities. He’s a very humble kid. He comes to work when he comes to train. He’s a guy who can help us because he brings speed onto the field. He can impact the game because of his strength on the ball and his speed.”
As he works towards more playing time in league action, Cato is also thrilled with the opportunity to contribute in the US Open Cup, where he had a pair of assists in Seattle’s convincing wins over the Atlanta Silverbacks and Cal FC before his goal-scoring heroics against San Jose.
That leaves Cato hungry for even more as Seattle will meet Chivas USA in the semifinals in less than two weeks.
“We’re going to push hard and do whatever we can coming up in the semifinal to get to the final for the fourth year in a row,” he said.
The Sounders will meet the New England Revolution on Saturday, then draw Real Salt Lake on July 4 before their next home match on July 7 against the Colorado Rapids. The Open Cup semifinal is scheduled for July 11 at Starfire against Chivas USA. Tickets are available at SoundersFC.com starting tomorrow at 10 a.m.