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If there was one bright spot for the San Jose Earthquakes in last week’s colossal 3-0 drubbing to the Los Angeles Galaxy, it was Cordell Cato. Cato, who is starting to establish himself as a starting choice for interim head coach Mark Watson, kept throwing himself forward in attack that game providing ample pressure to A.J. Delagarza and the Galaxy’s right flank (Cato’s left). While that game got out of hand mostly in the middle of the park and thanks to suspect marking inside the area, Cato’s efforts though muted in such a boisterous defeat, have not gone unnoticed. Neither have they gone prior to that match.

With Shea Salinas dealing with nagging injury problems, Cordell Cato has stepped up for the Earthquakes, taking a large brunt of minutes and taking on opposing team’s back line as well. In the games since Salinas has been sidelined, Cato has been involved in San Jose’s attack on numerous times, bombing up field and causing defenders to stand on their toes when he gets the ball at his feet. The Trinidadian has shown recently that he isn’t afraid to utilize his fancy footwork or let his 5 feet 9 inch frame deter him from going against the more statuesque defenders in the league. During the San Jose’s feisty draw last month against FC Dallas, Cato’s involvement was instrumental in providing San Jose’s early advantage.

After losing his defender, it was Cato was took the ball to the byline before cutting is back to Alan Gordon who then opened the scoring in that match. Cato’s assist, his lone of the season, was a sign of things to come. Although he has seen limited action this season, only 13 games played at 515 minutes, Cato shows plenty of potential. He got his only goal of the season early in the year against Chivas USA and scored another in San Jose’s friendly against Norwich City. Both of those goals highlighted something that the 21 year old is improving in every game: finding the space. Sure, you can argue that those two goals were other teams errors, especially the Norwich goal, but give credit to Cato for providing the right kind of pressure needed to make a crucial interception along with finding the right pockets of space on the field. Sounds routine, but when you think about it, soccer is a simple game, and often times the most drawn out tactics can dissolve because of fundamental truths.

Marvin Chavez, San Jose’s other upstart winger who is primarily used on the right, will not feature in tomorrow’s match against the Philadelphia Union due to international duties. The Honduran just secured a famous 2-1 victor of Mexico in Azteca for World Cup qualification. His countryman and Quakes teammate, Victor Bernardez will be absent as well. With Chavez away, Salvadoran Jaime Alas will probably feature on the flanks as well, even switching with Cato if the Union’s defense proves stubborn. But for tomorrow, it will be a game that Cato can shine in and must if he seeks to propel his young career and also the Earthquakes’ playoff chances. At the very least if Cato proves to be a thorn in Ray Gaddis and his back line, Chris Wondolowski and either Steven Lenhart and Gordon can benefit from the attention and find space in the middle of the attacking third. Gaddis, Philadelphia’s starting right back suffered an ankle injury that saw him out for three games. He appears to have recovered fine though and contributed to the Union’s clean sheet against Montreal last weekend. Cato will need to test Gaddis’ fitness and take him head on. Also, this is a defensive unit that can be night and day, earlier this month they conceded five to the New England Revolution. San Jose still has proven strikers in case MLS fans forgot and Cato must add to this dimension.

Cato can be the x-factor tomorrow night when the Union come to Buck Shaw stadium and the thousands in attendance will be eager to see him see him capitalize on the moment. His young career is starting to show it’s potential, will Cordell Cato take the next step?