SAN JOSE, Calif. – When Cordell Cato slotted his shot past FC Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez on Saturday, there was a greater import than the 1-0 lead that it handed the San Jose Earthquakes.
Cato became the first Quake other than Chris Wondolowski to score a first-half goal this season. And with Wondolowski on US national team duty for at least the next four matches, Cato might have shown San Jose the way to survive, offensively speaking, without their captain.
“I think it’s got to come from the group,” Quakes coach Mark Watson told MLSsoccer.com about who will pick up the scoring slack. “I think everyone’s going to have to step up and fill the void. All our strikers have to think about contributing in the run of play but also in the final third. I think in Wondo’s absence, everyone has to look to step up and make a contribution on that end. And we have a lot of guys that can score goals.”
The Quakes have a lot of forwards, but when they take on Seattle this weekend (10 pm ET, MLS Live), Cato might be the only player in San Jose’s starting lineup with an MLS goal to his name this season. Only four Quakes have tallied during the club’s 2-3-4 start, and in addition to the absent Wondolowski (five goals), defender Victor Bernardez (two goals) is suspended and winger Yannick Djalo (one goal) is listed as questionable with left groin tightness which has cost him two matches.
Making matters worse, winger Shea Salinas, who has a team-high four assists, is suspended after seeing red against Dallas and Alan Gordon, who has put in tireless work as a target man in recent weeks, will miss the game due to a left groin strain. Along with Djalo, Atiba Harris is also listed among the questionable contingent -- although forward Steven Lenhart, who's missed six games with a sprained MCL, does not appear on the injury list at all this week.
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Of course, the Quakes got on the board against Dallas without any of those players’ involvement – the ball pinging from Jordan Stewart’s back pass to Jon Busch’s long ball to Clarence Goodson’s flick header to Cato’s chest, which the Trindadian used to bring the ball down before shooting between Fernandez’s legs. And Cato thinks the things that lead to San Jose’s brightness in attack during long stretches of the last two games can be replicated regardless of who’s on the field.
“I think there was a lot more communication,” Cato told MLSsoccer.com. “Most of the guys, including myself, we wanted the ball. We were talking and moving for each other. That’s what it’s been the past couple of games. . . . It’s a lot better.
“You don’t want to be on the field and seeing there’s a man on your teammate and you’re not saying anything. There’s been a lot more talk in recent games – ‘Man on,’ ‘play it simple’ – giving a lot of information. It makes the game simpler for each other.”