Cade Cowell has enjoyed the grind of being a professional soccer player.
The 16-year-old Ceres native has contributed in 11 games during his sophomore campaign with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Every single day, you have to prove something,” said Cowell, a 5-foot-11 166-pound winger/forward. “You have to take every practice and game serious. If you have a bad week of training, there’s a chance you might not get rostered. It’s super competitive. I just try to work as hard as possible.”
Cowell and the Earthquakes edged the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 at home on Oct. 3.
“We played well,” he said. “We played with a lot of confidence.”
The win helped San Jose (4-6-5) climb back into the race for a playoff berth.
The Earthquakes jumped from 12th place to ninth in the MLS Western Conference standings.
Real Salt Lake (4-6-5) had a one-point lead over San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot as of Tuesday.
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling being in the mix,” Cowell said. “I definitely believe we’re good enough to make playoffs. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. We have to keep pushing every single game.”
Cowell entered the game versus the Galaxy in the 73rd minute when he replaced forward Chris Wondolowski.
“I didn’t play well,” he said. “But it’s good we got the win. We had to.”
San Jose secured its second straight victory.
Cowell and the Earthquakes beat California rivals L.A. Galaxy and Los Angeles FC in a seven-day span.
Cowell helped set up the winning goal in stoppage time as the visiting Earthquakes stunned Los Angeles FC 2-1 on Sept. 27.
Cowell shielded the ball from two defenders in the right corner of the field, used the underside of his right foot to create space and threaded a perfect pass to Cristian Espinoza.
Jackson Yuiell slotted Espinoza’s cross pass into the back of the net.
San Jose snapped an eight-game winless streak.
“It’s great getting two wins,” Cowell said. “It’s even better because it came against two L.A. teams.”
The Earthquakes will play host to Vancouver Whitecaps FC today at 7:30 p.m.
“We have seven or eight games left,” Cowell said. “We have to win or get some points.”
Cowell has logged 342 minutes of playing time this season.
He’s started three times.
Cowell’s scored one goal and attempted eight shots.
He didn’t make any appearances in MLS play during his first year with the Earthquakes.
“I’m pretty happy with how everything is going,” Cowell said. “I didn’t think I’d get as many minutes this year. You always have to be mentally and physical ready. It’s definitely been really fun. It’s a great group to play with. Everybody is super supportive.”
“Everybody would love to start,” he added. “But I don’t mind coming off the bench. I have to keep working hard until I earn a starting spot.”
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.
Cowell entered the record books on Aug. 29 by becoming the youngest player to start and score in team history in the Earthquakes’ narrow 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
He also became the eighth-youngest goalscorer in MLS history.
Cowell gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in the 59th minute.
He fired an 18-yard shot past Los Angeles goalie David Bingham and into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Cowell spent close to six weeks in Florida when he played for the Earthquakes at the MLS is Back Tournament, staged July 8 to Aug. 11, in Orlando.
He contributed off the bench in two of five matches as San Jose compiled a 3-1-1 record on its way to a top-eight finish at the 24-team tournament.
The Earthquakes lost 4-1 to Minnesota United FC in the quarterfinals on Aug. 1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Cowell brought some much-needed energy to the field during San Jose’s 5-2 triumph over Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16 Knockout Stage on July 27.
The Earthquakes were clinging to a 3-2 lead when Cowell entered the match with less than 10 minutes to play. His pressure from the left side of the pitch led to San Jose’s fourth goal, which was scored by Wondolowski in the 86th minute.
Cowell and the Earthquakes placed first in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament.
San Jose collected two wins and one draw.
The Earthquakes shut out Chicago Fire FC 2-0 on July 19 and stormed back for a 4-3 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 15.
Cowell made his second MLS appearance when he entered the match as substitute late in the second half of the Earthquakes’ 0-0 tie versus 2019 league champion Seattle Sounders FC on July 10.
The MLS is Back Tournament marked the restart of the MLS season, which was postponed for four months due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Cowell made his MLS debut on March 8.
Cowell has shown flashes of excellence during his second season with the Earthquakes.
“I can be as good as I want to be,” he said. “It’s up to me and my hard work.”
Cowell has received more media and fan attention since making numerous appearances at the age of 16 as a first-team player.
“I don’t worry about that stuff,” he said. “I’m focused on working hard, getting better and doing well in games.”