Cade Cowell exceeded his expectations during his second year with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Going into the season, I set a goal for myself to make my (Major League Soccer) debut,” the 17-year-old Ceres native said. “I did that.”
Cowell didn’t expect to play in the majority of San Jose’s games this year.
He made 18 appearances, including four as a starter.
“The most enjoyable thing is you wake up and it’s all about soccer,” Cowell said. “I love training.”
Cowell collected one goal and one assist.
He attempted 16 shots.
“I thought I did pretty well,” said Cowell, a 5-foot-11 166-pound winger/forward. “The biggest thing was experience. I went from playing in zero games to 18. They (my coaches and teammates) believed in me. That gave me confidence.”
Cowell accomplished several firsts this year.
He became the youngest player in Earthquakes’ history to make a postseason appearance.
Cowell and eighth-seeded San Jose fell short in their bid to upset top-seeded Sporting Kansas City in Round One of the Major League Soccer Cup Playoffs.
San Jose lost 3-0 in a penalty-kick shootout to Sporting KC after the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie through regulation and extra time on Nov. 22 at Children’s Mercy Park.
“We were very confident going into the match,” Cowell said. “We had two weeks to prepare for them. We gave it our all from the very first minute until the very last. We showed we could compete with the No. 1 team.”
Cowell contributed off the bench versus Sporting KC (13-6-3).
He replaced San Jose all-time assists leaders Shea Salinas late in the second half.
“I was excited when he (head coach Matias Almeyda) called my name to go into the game,” Cowell said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was confident.”
The Western Conference playoff game was broadcast on FS1.
Cowell had two scoring chances against 13-6-3 Sporting KC, including one during extra time.
He threatened from close-range in the 113th minute.
Cowell’s left-footed shot from the right side was saved by Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia.
“I thought I could have done a lot better,” Cowell said while talking about his overall performance against Sporting KC. “I’m going to focus on my finishing (during the offseason).”
Chris Wondolowski, Cowell’s teammate and the MLS’s all-time leading goal scorer, sent the game into overtime after heading Cristian Espinoza’s pass into the back of the net in the 97th minute.
“Wondo is a legend,” Cowell said. “He’s the hardest worker on the team. I look up to him and want to be like that.”
The Earthquakes compiled an 8-10-6 overall record this season.
Cowell helped the Earthquakes secure their first playoff berth since 2017 with a 3-2 win over Los Angeles FC on Oct. 4 in San Jose.
He contributed off the bench during the second half.
Cowell entered the game in the 87th minute.
He almost scored his second goal of the season.
Cowell used his speed to beat two defenders before having his left-footed shot on a one-on-one breakaway deflected by Los Angeles goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.
Vermeer just got his fingertips on the ball.
Unable to attend matches in-person due to COVID-19 safety measures, San Jose fans listened to games from their cars in the parking lot of Earthquakes Stadium.
Cowell and his teammates climbed a fence and waved to spectators following the conclusion of the postseason-clinching victory.
“To be able to make playoffs and see all the support from the fans was definitely a cool experience,” he said.
Cowell made his fourth career start as the Earthquakes closed out the regular season with a 4-1 loss to host Seattle Sounders FC on Nov. 8.
He played the entire match.
San Jose earned the Western Conference’s eighth-and-final playoff spot thanks to an impressive run late in the season.
The Earthquakes amassed a 6-3-1 record during their final 10 matches.
San Jose totaled four shutouts.
The Earthquakes collected four wins, one loss and one tie in a 22-day span.
“Winning (2-1) at LA FC was a confidence booster,” Cowell said.
Cowell inked a five-year contract with San Jose at the age of 15 in January of 2019.
He became the youngest player signing in Earthquakes and Bay Area team sports history.
“My parents did a lot for me when I was younger,” Cowell said. “That’s what I appreciate the most.”
Cowell entered the record books on Aug. 29 by becoming the youngest player to start and score in team history in San Jose’s narrow 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
He also became the eighth-youngest goalscorer in league history.
Cowell made his MLS debut against Minnesota United FC on March 7.
He didn’t make any appearances in league play as a rookie.
Cowell graduated from Cesar Chavez Jr. High in 2018.
“For him to do what he did, we didn’t expect that,” father Debin Cowell said. “We thought he was going to play for (United Soccer League affiliate) Reno. He played well this year.”
“I got to compete against players I watched on TV,” Cade Cowell said. “I found joy in that.”
Cowell could vie for a starting spot with the Earthquakes in 2021.
“I’m definitely excited for season three,” he said. “I’ll have to work even harder. I want to keep on improving. I want to help my team out more with goals, assists and anything I can. We’re capable of making playoffs. Our goal is to win the MLS Cup.”