With a whimper, the Cade Cowell era ends in the Bay. Given how memorable his debut was, it’s hard to have ever imagined it ending this way. His time with San Jose began with such promise, but this separation is much needed for both club and player. 


When Cowell made his debut in 2020, he was destined to  be the  player that would bring the Quakes back to relevance.  However, due to a multitude of reasons, both sides are left wanting more.

This divorce was more or less in play since the middle of the season. Cowell had just played the best soccer of his career with the U20 USMNT side, but Luchi barely trusted him. Perhaps he should have left in the summer with European clubs hovering, but hindsight is 20/20.

Photo: MLS

Cowell’s developmental stall requires more than just one piece. It encompasses the issues of rushing a player’s development and what happens when the team outgrows the player. If the Quakes are serious about becoming a top side in terms of homegrown talent, they must learn from this.

Chivas is not the club most fans imagined Cowell leaving the club for. It feels like a marriage of convenience for all sides involved.


No Quakes fan can ever forget the feeling they had when Cowell scored his first goal against LA Galaxy in 2020. It was a feeling of hope that this hometown kid would carry the team in the post-Wondo years. 

Fairly or unfairly, Cowell quickly became the player who was to bridge the Quakes between eras. He both had to pick up the baton from Wondo and lead the team to the future. No one, fan, club or media alike, stopped to ask if this was fair or if he was the correct player.

Pressure kept being heaped onto him, culminating in that bizarre all star selection with less than half a season under his belt. From the moment his selection was announced, he stopped being a young prospect and had to become a star. Anything less than pushing the Quakes forward would just lead to MLS moving onto the next young star.

It shouldn’t be of any surprise that, even with that all star nod, he would struggle for consistency. Be it Almeyda, Covelo or Luchi, no manager could ever get Cowell going.  

Photo: USMNT

As MLS caught up to his game, his production dropped year after year. The arrivals of Ebbobisse and Monteiro meant that pressure would be lifted on Cowell, but he failed to develop. By the end of this past season, the forward had become little more than a bench player.

Hoppe’s explosion with the Quakes at the end of last season proved to be the  death knell of Cowell’s time in the Bay. Even if Hoppe’s career in San Jose  was never meant to be long term, it showed the profile of a player the team needs. Luchi’s system demands another type of winger that Cowell just isn’t.

The moment when the ball beat the Galaxy keeper is one of the best moments of recent Quakes memory. For a brief time, hope was here and the team would finally enter the modern MLS.


Perhaps the reason behind Cowell’s struggles has to do with the way he plays the game. The lack of development and change stunted any growth.

Cowell is known to have played the wide receiver position and thrived at it. When you watch him on the wing, he plays more like a wideout than an actual winger.

It’s reductive, and unfair, to reduce the wide receiver position to just catch and react, but that’s how  Cade’s play felt. Get the ball, move to open space and then wait. In soccer, a winger has to do much more.

The modern game demands that wingers operate as proto-number 10s who can be a threat to  score. It’s here where Cade’s inefficiencies are truly glaring. When he was moved to winger, he needed to become a better playmaker which he has struggled with.

Photo: ISI Photos

A move back to striker may kickstart a comeback for him and allow him to just read and react. This position plays to his strong suits and doesn’t force him to be what he isn’t. Until his decision making and passing improve, he’ll always be a limited player.

What will help Cowell no matter where he ends up is his natural athletic gifts. His insane combination of pace and speed make it easy to see him just tear up Mexico. At the same time, it’s been his crutch and he has to combine those gifts with a developed sense of play to reach the highest levels.

Cowell was always going to be a project and needed room to develop. To be fair to him, the team never really let him, but he also didn’t repay their trust.

This transfer feels mutual in a way a lot of others don’t. Both sides were ready for this partnership to be over and all that’s left are what ifs. Hope is very fleeting and  we can sometimes just hang onto it, even as it slips away like sand through our hands.

 

Featured image: MLS

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