The San Jose Earthquakes used a tidy defensive performance in Minnesota this weekend to snap their six-match unbeaten streak, but it was made all the more impressive by the fresh face at right back.
According to head coach Dom Kinnear, regular right back Nick Lima picked up a dead-leg injury in training during the week leading up to the match, leading to winger Cordell Cato moving back to fill in. For Kinnear, the Trinidad & Tobago international more than held his ground.
“The one thing about Cordell is that he can play a lot of positions,” Kinnear said. “He attacks well from deep, he defends well, so I thought he had a good game for us.”
Cato kept Minnesota’s wide players at bay all day, containing compatriot Kevin Molino and also pressing up the right-hand side. He also moved around the pitch to great effect, giving the Loons headaches all over the pitch.
“I’m an attacking player, so in playing defense, I was trying to be simple,” Cato explained “I pressed forward in the attack, tried to create chances and be dangerous. I thought I did that tonight.”
Cato also generated what was likely the best chance of any player on the field in the first half, curling a left-footed shot that beat the goalkeeper and struck the underside of the crossbar only to bounce away from goal.
His captain and teammate Chris Wondolowski was impressed. MLS's leading-active goalscorer appreciated the additional spark that Cato provided.
“Cordell did really well,” according to the US international. “We played a new lineup in a 4-2-3-1 in a sense. Cordell was at right back with a lot of ground to cover. He’s so quick and dynamic with the ball. He provided a nice spark for us.”
Lima eventually subbed into the match for the last nine minutes, but he came in at left back. Given Cato’s strong performance in Minnesota, Kinnear is keeping his fullback options open.
“It’s possible [Cato] starts next week [Saturday vs. Portland Timbers],” said Kinnear. “We’ll see ... lots of stuff can happen between then.”