has offered moments of brilliance in his brief career with the San Jose Earthquakes and U.S. Soccer's youth teams, glimpses of what could be as he evolves into a more mature, more consistent presence in the attack.
On Wednesday night, he provided a taste of what that
might look like.
The 19-year-old wing/forward -- with his parents, grandparents, girlfriend and a few friends down from the Bay Area to witness -- made the most of his first senior national team start, doing nearly everything except score as the Yanks opened the 2026 World Cup cycle with a 2-1 loss to Serbia at Los Angeles FC's newly rechristened BMO Stadium.
Cowell, claiming his second cap and first in 13 months, was most impressive among an attacking group that thrilled acting head coach Anthony Hudson
, menacing the Serbs with backline-stretching runs from the left flank, superb off-the-ball movement, and the intelligence to repeatedly creep into dangerous spots, particularly during the U.S.'s furious, failed bid to rally after falling behind at the start of the second half.
He hit both posts, just a few seconds apart, came close on two other tries and twice set up teammates for good chances in a most memorable outing.
“Cade, wow,” Hudson exclaimed afterward. “Like what a performance from Cade. I'm, like, so proud of him, so impressed by his performance. ... He was just outstanding tonight. Really direct, really aggressive, brave. ... This is probably the best performance I've seen [from him].
“I've seen him have some amazing moments. I think tonight was another level, another step forward for him. It was a really special performance from him, and I'm proud of what he did tonight.”
Cowell called it “a good start to the year” and hopes it bodes well for what's to come in 2023. He's got a U-20 World Cup in May (as long as everything falls into place), there will surely see opportunities with the senior side, and he's looking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign last season with a Quakes team that finished last in Western Conference and won just eight games, worse than all but D.C. United.
He lasted until the 73rd minute, limited by preseason fitness -- “I'm pretty unfit,” he acknowledged -- and had he'd gone the full 90, Hudson suggested, the outcome might have been different.
“I kept turning to our sports scientist and coaching staff, because, obviously, we had set times [for certain players], and as the clock was ticking, I knew he had to come off,” Hudson said. “But I didn't want to bring him off. ... I think maybe if he'd stayed on, I think he deserves a goal, for sure.”
Fortune denied Cowell the net, frustratingly so. He whisked the ball just past the right post in each half -- from an Alan Soñora
through ball in the 19th minute and after cutting in from the left wing in the 58th -- but was unluckier on the game's best American attacking sequence that wasn't Brandon Vazquez
's clinical header from Julian Gressel
's expert cross.
He ran onto the ball after Serbia was pressured into a turnover in its defensive third in the 56th minute, streaking into the box and firing a left-footed shot that plunked off the right post. Moments later, he took a little feed from Jonathan Gomez
at the top-left corner of the area, weaved through a maze of defenders, then beat goalkeeper Dragan Rosic
with a right-footed attempt that clanked off the left post.
How did neither go in? He was sure he had one.
“The left-footed shot, the first post,” Cowell said. “I was already running to the corner flag.”
Then it happens again.
“Man, like, that's never happened to me in my life before. I was pretty bummed out, but just to get those chances I felt good.”
Scoring goals is the hardest part of the game, but c'mon, right?
“Man, I don't know,” Cowell said. “Tonight wasn't my night.”
Except it was his night, just without the requisite climax, and maybe a sharper, fitter Cowell -- say the Cowell we'll see come April -- ends up celebrating. “Hopefully,” he said, “I can put all those away three months from now.”
He said he was “happy with my 1v1s a lot, felt pretty confident taking my man and running behind, had some good crosses. Overall, I need to sharpen up a lot of little things: maybe close-contact touches; finishing, obviously I need to be more clinical with that. But overall, I felt pretty confident, pretty great for my first start.”
The next step is to repeat. Cowell needs to be consistently dangerous, for the Quakes and when he pulls on the U.S. shirt, and he knows that.
“Hopefully, I can play like that almost every game,” he said. “Obviously, it's impossible to play like that every game, but I've just got to be very consistent. That's what I want to do this year, is just be consistent, play like that almost every game.”
He's looking for better this year in San Jose. Although he made a career-best 15 starts last year, his minutes and numbers dipped a bit as he too often disappeared in games. He wants to make that right and is expecting “more goals, more assists, more playing time, more consistency. Being better all-around.”
“[This season] is very important for me. I've had my years of being the young guy, but I think it's time to step up and be a consistent player and just bring my game much higher. I'm excited for that.”
Top Photo: Robert Mora/ISI Photos
NIce to have a player at the national team level who can strike with either foot. Go Cade!!
WOW.??? You all are going to "Blow his Head Up"
Every Play ENDED when he Touched the Ball....
Didn't combine with his Teammates,
All of his Plays Ended Up OUT OF BOUNDS or DEAD.
Go Back, Watch the Tape.
A "BLACKHOLE" that Sucked IN all the Light and Nothing Came Out of it.
Pure Turbo,,,,Lots of Twitch and Atheletiscm there, but isn't that what were are trying to get away from.???
Or in my Theory of "Tiki-Turbo", he could fit in, if he can Just Combine with others.
Agree. Soccer is not an individual sport.