Young and restless

SOUNDERS: Team’s youngest player, Cordell Cato, 19, eager to prove he belongs in MLS

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJuly 3, 2012 

There is one teenager on the Seattle Sounders FC first-team roster, and he appears to be growing up fast.

Cordell Cato scored the winning goal last week that sent Seattle past San Jose in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal.

“The goal has been a while coming,” Cato said Monday. “I get into games, I get shots. It’s always blocked or a miss-hit. It was always coming. I always felt it, and it came.”

Cato ran up the right side and fired past goalkeeper David Bingham. The ball found its way inside the far post, moving the Sounders on to the Open Cup semifinal against Chivas USA on July 11 at Starfire Sports Stadium.

“The ball was crossed in, and it came straight to me, so I just gave the defender a fake, got past him,” Cato said. “It was a difficult angle, but I was able to make contact, and it went in.”

Even before knocking in that winner, Cato was winning the confidence of coach Sigi Schmid.

“He’s a player I think we can count on,” Schmid said. “It started a little slowly for him in preseason. He had little niggling injuries that he had to learn to overcome, and just the daily training of what it was like to be a pro, and just the changes in training style in MLS versus what he was used to coming from Trinidad. But 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 and trains. … He’s a guy who can help us.”

Cato has appeared in five MLS matches, and is still looking for his first goal in league play. He admits that scoring goals isn’t his only challenge.

Cato is not only the youngest player on the roster – he turns 20 on July 15, while the next-youngest player is 21 – but he also is adapting to a new league a long way from home. He grew up in Trinidad, and played professionally there for two seasons before signing with the Sounders in January.

“It’s a lot different from back home – being away from family and friends, not being able to do the stuff that I usually do,” he said. “But that’s the sacrifice that I have to make as a young kid and trying to achieve all that you can achieve in your career. I’m man enough to do it, and I’m doing it. (There are) times when you just lie down and think about it. But that’s as far as it goes.”

One Sounders player who can relate is Eddie Johnson.

Now a 28-year-old veteran, Johnson made his MLS debut when he was 17.

“I was a young player once, had a lot of expectations,” Johnson said. “Everyone’s situation is different. We believe in (Cato). The sky’s the limit for him. He has everything. He has speed, he’s good one-on-one, he can score goals.”

Those kinds of things also were said about Johnson when he broke into MLS in 2001. In his first seven seasons in the league, the forward appeared in 127 matches and scored 41 goals. He left for Europe in 2007, and returned to MLS this season looking to revive his career.

After an injury-slowed start, he has scored four goals over his past four games – including both Seattle goals in a 2-2 draw at New England on Saturday. At the midpoint of the Sounders’ season, he leads the club with seven goals.

“It’s just about me feeling good,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working hard. I wasn’t with the team for a full preseason, so it was a frustrating start for me: a couple of injuries here, little nicks there. … My teammates here, the coaches, we all knew it was just a matter of time before the goals started coming, and the wins. For me, I’m working hard, I’m feeling good, and I’m being pushed by my teammates week in and week out.”

ADDED TIME

Goalkeeper Andew Weber (adductor strain) was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test late Monday. … No. 1 goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (hip) practiced Monday, and Schmid said his status could become clearer by the end of the week. … Schmid said the availability of midfielder Steve Zakuani (leg) remains week-to-week. … The Sounders train at Starfire again today before heading out for their 7 p.m. Wednesday match at Real Salt Lake.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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