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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Cade Cowell

Youngster could be star of the future.

SOCCER: NOV 22 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Round One - San Jose at Sporting KC Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you are excited about Cade Cowell, you’re far from the only one.

Cowell was one of the very young San Jose Earthquakes homegrown signings in 2019, another teenager who looked like he was years away from making any kind of impact for the first team.

But sometimes, one of those very young players is ready for the moment, and Cowell emerged to start getting some real playing time in 2020 as a 16-year-old.

I think you can make a case that Cowell forced his way into Matias Almeyda’s plans. Even as a 15-year-old, he had an adult body and did not look like a boy among men. And with the Earthquakes getting blown away in the second game of the 2020 season, the home loss against Minnesota United, Almeyda threw on Cowell as a 2nd-half change of pace sub, and...the kid looked terrific.

Here are Cowell’s stats in 2020:

Cade Cowell 2020 Earthquakes Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 17 4 466 1 1 14 7 0 0
MiB Knockouts 1 0 9 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 1 0 33 0 0 2 2 0 0
Total 19 4 508 1 1 16 9 0 0

I don’t want to overhype Cowell but there are some parallels between his emergence and another former MLS homegrown, Alphonso Davies. Both players were physically mature years before most players. Both were brought along slowly in their pro careers, with a year spent playing in the USL before playing a mostly bench role in their first season getting MLS minutes.

Cowell looked like he belonged in his time playing, but he’s not a deadly marksman yet, so working on finishing is probably a priority given his position. There were rumors during the season that he was being scouted by Barcelona, which sounds both plausible and likely overblown. Cowell turned 17 in October, and I think the ideal is that he not only plays more regular minutes in 2021, but starts to show if he can actually dominate at MLS level.

If he can, then he’ll be sold to Europe in pretty short order. Davies caught the eye because he was clearly the best player on his Vancouver Whitecaps team by the time he was sold to Bayern Munich. Davies was brought along slowly, for his physical and mental development, but when they took the restraints off he balled out. I have no idea if Cowell’s ceiling is to be the best player on his MLS team at 17 — which is a tall order, no doubt — but if he approaches that level, San Jose can get a seven-figure transfer fee by the end of the year.

And if Cowell does perform at a level where he’s approaching the best player on the team, or at the very least, takes a step up this season, the Earthquakes will improve, too. It will sound like a cliché, but if Cowell really can make a step up and start scoring at a good clip and playing just about every game, he will “be like a new signing,” and they won’t have to go out to find an upgrade to the lineup, he’ll already be on their roster. And for a bargain.

Obviously, however, I’m not saying his trajectory is to definitely be at Davies’ level and end up on a global superpower in a year or so. I think it’s possible. Will it happen? Much of that depends on him, and whether he’s capable of taking a big step up. If not, if he needs some more time to really develop, so be it. That won’t automatically make him a failure as a player, of course.

But among the crop of Quakes homegrowns, Cowell is absolutely the prospect who seems to have the highest ceiling at this moment, based on his age and what he’s done so far. Playing in San Jose means he’ll be out of the MLS limelight a bit, just like Davies in Vancouver, and this year could be a very big one for Cowell’s prospects moving forward. It should be very fun to see how he progresses.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.