Given how many opportunities had already gone by the boards for the San Jose Earthquakes, there was no compelling reason to think that Cordell Cato’s goalward run in the 76th minute of Saturday night's match against Chivas USA was going to be anything other than another effort put forth without reward.
Until, that is, Shea Salinas tracked down Nana Attakora’s leading pass in the left corner, and cut a centering ball back to the middle of the Chivas penalty box – where Cato met it in stride with his left foot, beating goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to the near post for the 20-year-old’s first goal in MLS play.
“It was a feeling I’ve been missing for a year now,” said Cato, who made eight scoreless regular-season appearances last year as a rookie with Seattle before joining San Jose this winter. “It’s been long coming.”
The move was a pure speed burn to take advantage of Chivas USA’s three-man backline. With Mario de Luna chasing Salinas and Joaquín Velázquez occupied centrally by Chris Wondolowski, all it took for Cato was to get a step on Carlos Borja on the Quakes’ right wing – which he did with a well-timed acceleration.
Borja never could make up that lost ground, and with Kennedy pinned down in the middle of the goalmouth, Cato could concentrate on striking the ball cleanly to the near post.
“We had so many good possessions, so many good chances and half chances,” Cato told MLSsoccer.com. “It just wasn’t going in at that point in time. Luckily for me, I was at the right place at the right time, and it happened.”
This was exactly the kind of thing the Quakes had been hoping to see from Cato, a Trinidad and Tobago youth international who first came to San Jose’s attention in 2011. San Jose liked the 5-9, 150-pounder, but his MLS rights belonged to the Sounders, who gave him 15 appearances across all competitions last season. Ironically, Cato’s only goal came in US Open Cup play during a contentious quarterfinal against the Quakes at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
“Cato’s been playing great in training, and that was a great finish he had,” Salinas told MLSsoccer.com.
Cato’s goal ensured that San Jose would have only their second multi-goal game of the season, and first since March 10 against New York, a match in which the Quakes were scoreless through 82 minutes, only coming to life with a late flurry against the Red Bulls.
“That was really important, because the thing with us in a lot of games, the chances have been there but unfortunately, whether it’s a block or a miss, it hasn’t been coming,” Cato said. “This is just a step forward, getting two goals in a game. Hopefully, going forward, it’s all going to get better.”