Donning the burgundy and sky blue jersey of the Colorado Rapids has been Cole Bassett’s lifelong dream. From a young age, the Colorado native worked day-in and day-out to make sure he would one day be on the roster of his favorite childhood club. And this year, that dream not only came true, but the 17-year-old’s name will go down in Rapids’ history books as the youngest player to sign a professional deal, make an appearance, start a game, and score a goal for the club.
“The whole week leading up to the match [against Portland] I was working super hard to make the squad,” Bassett recalled about the lead-up to his MLS debut.
When asked how he handled his nerves heading into the Portland match, the midfielder stated that the atmosphere and significance of the occasion only made him more excited. “Almost a little too excited,” Bassett chuckled, “because I ran straight to the center line, and they had to call me back to give me some instructions.”
His debut wasn’t just a personal career milestone—it served as a pivotal moment for the entire organization. After four years without a homegrown signing, the Rapids offered contracts to Kortne Ford, Ricardo Perez, Sam Vines, and Bassett between 2017 and 2018. Ford has since become a staple in the Rapids’ backline while Perez and Vines consistently featured for United Soccer League franchise Charlotte Independence throughout 2018.
Bassett felt these signings showed that Colorado is doing a better job at providing their academy players with a pipeline to the first team. “[The Colorado Rush] did a great job at developing players, but I knew that if I wanted to play in MLS, I needed to be playing for an MLS academy team,” Bassett said of his move to the Rapids Academy in 2017.
Colorado’s coaching staff also piqued Bassett’s interest as the Assistant and Goalkeeping Coach of the Rapids’ first team, Chris Sharpe, also serves as the Academy Goalkeeper Director. Bassett stated that Sharpe always watched academy games to see which players were ready to start training and playing with the senior side. He also noted Sam Vines’ progression to the first team further motivated him to be the next academy kid to be in the first team.
On October 30, 2018, the Colorado Rapids announced an affiliation deal with USL franchise Colorado Switchbacks, a decision Bassett is behind wholeheartedly. With U-17 and U-19 players more regularly training with the first team, he hopes the affiliation will open doors for future academy products to play in USL and work their way into MLS.
When reflecting on his own journey to the first team, Bassett singled out his goal scoring as a weak point in his game. Prior to his first season with the Rapids’ DA team, he worked tirelessly to model his game after midfield inspirations Frank Lampard and Kevin De Bruyne. “Throughout the offseason I worked super hard to become who I look up to. Kind of like Lampard or De Bruyne, a goal-scoring midfielder that really is efficient in front of goal. I increased my tally with the DA team to 12 and then I scored my first goal with the first team after six or seven games.”
Bassett also shared that on the Rapids, he looks up to Kellyn Acosta’s offensive mindset and Jack Price’s ability on the ball, as well as his astute mentality. Since moving up to the senior team, Bassett says that the veterans of the team, especially Giles Barnes, have helped him to polish even the finest details of his own game.
Long-term, Bassett hopes to establish himself as a well-rounded #8 that has the license to push forward and join the attack. Against Minnesota, he was allowed to operate as that creative, influential 8 but was pushed into the 10 role in the next two matches against FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Of those three matches, Bassett felt his best performance came on Decision Day where he scored his first-ever goal for the Colorado Rapids in MLS. “I felt more comfortable and the game really slowed down for me,” he explained. “The first two games I had 76% and 79% passing completion but then I finished the Dallas match with 93% passing completion.”
“It also felt great to score,” Bassett continued, “because during all those games I really wanted to score, especially in the first one against Minnesota. I had a couple good chances that game. So to finally do it, especially against a huge DA [Development Academy] rival like FC Dallas, felt great.”
That goal proved to have huge implications on the Western Conference playoff seeding. Not only did it knock FC Dallas from second to fourth, but it also led to Dallas’ third successive loss heading into the first round of the playoffs. They preceded to fall 2-1 at home to the Portland Timbers in a single-round elimination match.
With the 2018 season now in the books for the Colorado Rapids, Bassett sees the postseason as an opportunity to truly claim a starting role in the first team. “I see myself remaining with the first team next year, but I have to earn that spot. I want to help get this team back to the playoffs and ultimately earn call-ups to the youth national teams and eventually the senior team.”
Though his focus is primarily on first earning call-ups to the national camps, Bassett hopes that he can be a part of the squad that travels to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. His aspirations at the international level are to bring the United States back to a World Cup semifinal, a feat in which they have not accomplished since the inaugural 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.
As the Rapids’ coaching staff looks ahead to the 2019 season, Bassett is a player the organization will need to focus on for the future. He is an exemplary model for future homegrowns to look up to and a prized asset for a franchise in need of a change.