Growing up, Earthquakes midfielder Cordell Cato would make the 10 minute trek from his Carenage home down the road to Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the heart of soccer in the country’s capital.
In the same stadium he once paraded around as a fan and aspiring professional, Cato will suit up for Trinidad and Tobego in Tuesday night’s highly anticipated FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against the United States.
For 23-year-old midfielder, ‘highly anticipated’ may be a bit of an understatement.
“It’s going to be the biggest game of my career, especially on the international stage,” Cato said Monday morning. “Especially if we come out victorious. To [get a win against the United States] in front of our fans, this is something that they’ve been waiting to experience for years now.”
The seaside, 23,000-seat venue is expected to be sold-out in anticipation of Tuesday’s bout. The Soca Warriors have always challenged the United States at Hasely Crawford Stadium, but considering their recent form, they could be due for one of the most memorable matches at the country’s storied stadium.
“The anticipation and support is beyond what we expected,” Cato said of the host nation's support. “There’s just so much behind this game for the fans and it’s exciting for them to come out and see a game of this magnitude. It’s going to be a packed stadium, so it’s going to be a fun environment. We’re going to give them a good game.”
Cato and the Soca Warriors kicked off their qualifying campaign Friday with a 2-1 win against Guatemala. Coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute, Cato, along with teammate Kevan George, ignited a second half push that led to their two second half goals.
“When you talk about Guatemala, they’re always a tough team to face at home,” Cato explained. “We managed the game pretty well. Halfway through the second half we found space, started playing better football and started creating a couple scoring opportunities. In a tough situation and a tough country against a good team, we came up with a 2-1 victory.”
After back to back wins against a stout Guatemala side and a glowing 2015 Gold Cup cameo this past summer in the United States, Cato and the Soca Warriors are soaking in this golden era of soccer in the Caribbean.
“The chemistry has never been better,” Cato said. “Some of the other guys have even said they’ve never been a part of a closer group than what we have now. We just want to win. We play for each other, we have fun together, we love each other, and we have fun every time we step on the field.”
Sure, the Soca Warriors' top form on the field perfectly aligns with Tuesday’s home match in Port of Spain, but they’ll have a lot of work to do in coming up victorious against Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.
“We are going to expect a tough game against a tough team,” Cato said about Tuesday’s clash with the U.S. “For us, we’re home. We just have to be ourselves and be comfortable. We’ve been playing well so we just have to continue what we’re doing. If we go out and play our game, we will be tough for the U.S. to beat."