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Although Cordell Cato played fullback on an emergency basis last year he didn't train as a defender in the offseason.

"I don't like the position at all," he said.

Why?

"I'm a winger."

Cato, 22, didn't need many words to make his point. But when the Earthquakes play host to first-place Vancouver on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium the self-described attacking player could be the focus of a makeshift defense.

The 5-foot-9 Trinidadian has become an invaluable commodity on a team suddenly scavenging for fullbacks. Cato, who normally tries to race past defenders on the right flank, has been asked to play out of position while regular backs Shaun Francis (fractured cheekbone), Jordan Stewart (calf strain) and Marvell Wynne (hamstring strain) are out.

Cato is the probable choice at left back for coach Dominic Kinnear while Francis and Stewart remain sidelined.

Wynne is available Saturday after missing about two weeks because of the left hamstring injury. But if he were to need a little more time, Kinnear could call upon center backs Ty Harden or Paulo Renato, who also returned from injury this week.

Cato started Sunday on the right but moved to the left when Francis had to depart after a head-to-head collision in the first half. Midfielder JJ Koval rushed in to defend the right side.

The Earthquakes (2-3-0) find themselves in this predicament after cutting ties with right backs Brandon Barklage and Pablo Pintos before the season.

But the versatility of the midfielders has helped. Cato said it's difficult to make the transition from an attacker to a defender, but he could have fooled his coach.

"He does well," Kinnear said. "So, it is not too big of an accomplishment for him. Sometimes you have to play out of position to get on the field."

Playing time became a premium for Cato a year after starting a career-high 16 games. The Quakes signed two promising right-side midfielders in Sanna Nyassi and Leonardo Barrera. It seemingly dropped Cato to third in the depth chart.

Cato, who came to San Jose from Seattle in a 2013 trade, wants to be on the field wherever Kinnear puts him.

"You have to set your mind to play it," he said of defense. "I'm not going to go out there disappointed because I am not in my position. The team wants and needs me there right now."

But the versatility of the midfielders has helped. Cato said it's difficult to make the transition from an attacker to a defender, but he could have fooled his coach.

"He does well," Kinnear said. "So, it is not too big of an accomplishment for him. Sometimes you have to play out of position to get on the field."

Playing time became a premium for Cato a year after starting a career-high 16 games. The Quakes signed two promising right-side midfielders in Sanna Nyassi and Leonardo Barrera. It seemingly dropped Cato to third in the depth chart.

Cato, who came to San Jose from Seattle in a 2013 trade, wants to be on the field wherever Kinnear puts him.

"You have to set your mind to play it," he said of defense. "I'm not going to go out there disappointed because I am not in my position. The team wants and needs me there right now."

Cato isn't worried about the opponent or where he might play -- as long as he plays.

"If they need me to go, I'm ready," he said.

At this point, the Earthquakes need him.