TUKWILA, Wash. – The feeling was one of disappointment as the minutes ticked down on the Seattle Sounders’ 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. But the collection of players on the field was at least somewhat notable.
Between Andy Rose, Alex Caskey, Bryan Meredith and Cordell Cato, there was all of 882 combined minutes of MLS experience. That Sounders manager Sigi Schmid trusted that relatively inexperienced quartet to finish out such an important game was no accident.
“We think they are good players,” Schmid told reporters on Monday. “They’ve played well in reserves, trained pretty consistently and that’s the reason they’ve gotten those opportunities. They are learning a lot. That should only serve us well.”
Rose and Meredith were both making their third consecutive starts, while Caskey has already started three times and appeared in six matches. Injuries have unquestionably contributed to their quick ascensions, but they have also passed more veteran players on their way there.
“It’s exciting,” said Caskey, who’s tied for the team lead with two assists, both of which were game-winners. “It shows our depth that we have so many guys that can come in and it shows the quality of the program that we can keep developing young players that can come in and really help the team out.”
Of those four players, only Rose is technically classified as a rookie. He was originally drafted by Real Salt Lake in the 2012 Supplemental Draft and was traded to the Sounders the same day. But all of them are playing their first full seasons at first-division clubs, with Caskey being the eldest at the ripe old age of 23.
Caskey and Meredith were both second-round picks in the 2011 SuperDraft. They failed to make the Sounders out of training camp and instead spent the year gaining experience at lower-division clubs. Meredith spent the season with the Kitsap Pumas of the PDL, while Caskey played for the Charleston Battery of the USL Pro.
Cato, the youngest of the group at 19, is also the most experienced pro. He signed his first professional contract in 2009 and has spent the previous three seasons in the Trinidadian league, most recently with Defense Force.
Perhaps as a result of that experience, he betrays no sense of awe that he’s now playing meaningful minutes for one of the top teams in MLS.
“I’m not at all surprised,” said Cato, who picked up an assist in his debut last Wednesday in Dallas. “I’ve worked hard. The reason I’m on the field is that I’ve showed what I’m capable of doing.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.