With rumors of Cordell Cato reaching a contract agreement and Mrisho Ngassa's club still waiting for confirmation that Tanzanian international will return for another training stint with Seattle Sounders FC it could be said that Hanauer & Co went for the U-20 Trinidad player rather than the East African U-23. Both are reportedly more in the Sanna Nyassi mold. They are fast winger/forwards who need to improve both their tactical awareness and technical ability to be effective.
Cato is younger by three years and as such does not have the senior national team appearances. Trinidad & Tobago carries a strong history as a CONCACAF national side, but has slipped into the mid 70s by FIFA ranking and low 80s by Soccer Power Index. Tanzania is much further down the scale in the hundred teens by SPI and the upper 130s by FIFA.
Neither player is likely to be a difference maker. Like Miguel Montano their presence on the team would be about what they could become in future seasons. Unlike Montano and Nyassi both of these players have increased appeal because of projects that the Sounders are undertaking in their homelands.
Seattle is trying to gain footholds in the Caribbean through the launching of the T&T combine. With dozens of MLS players from the region the hope is to be able to catch just a few more than the rest of the league. Relatively inexpensive efforts to find talent in an area where the teams are semi-pro level and players have heros who plied their professional experience in the United States. Flights from there to Seattle come in at just over a thousand dollars. But many MLS teams plow these islands looking for the next Ezra Hendrickson or Shalrie Joseph.
Flying a player from Dar es Salaam to Sea-Tac is not much more expensive and can be found at around $1500. While the talent in East Africa is clearly not at the overall level as the Caribbean the Seattle project there is much more extensive. At least one potential Academy player came over for a trial. With a major investment in Africa Lyon FC the Sounders outfit the team in jerseys as well as supplying balls and shoes. Clearly Seattle wants to turn Tanzania and East Africa into their own pipeline of talent.
With the type of player being similar, with Seattle trying to develop unique relationships within those regions can they afford to have both players on their roster? The Sounders carried seven players that could be considered projects in 2011. All but one will be back, but none look likely half way through the offseason of stepping into a significant role with Mike Seamon, David Estrada, Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith being most likely to take the opportunity to for a larger role. Any players taken in the MLS Draft will surely be projects as well. With Seattle's pick not being in the top 10 there is little chance that their pick contribute regularly in year one.
That makes it unlikely that there is room for both Cato and Ngassa on the roster. There just isn't room in the 30 man roster for two internationals that would contribute in 2012 or later. One of these young men as a flyer makes sense. Acquiring both on contract would pressure a current depth player (Michael Tetteh and Amadou Sanyang unmentioned earlier, Seamon, Estrada, Ford, Meredith as well) off the team. The team will make it's decision primarily for soccer reasons, but with both Cordell and Mrisho non-soccer benefits the direction chosen can open new paths beyond 2012.
Will we see both in preseason? Probably. Will both be on the team come March 7th? Almost certainly not.