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Rapids midfielder Cole Bassett has eyes on the 2021 Olympics and a spot with the senior USMNT

SOCCER: NOV 08 MLS - Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Attending U.S. Soccer training camp is another day at work for young Cole Bassett. He approached this job no different than when he pulls up to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park ahead of practice and play — with genuine excitement, laser-sharp focus and purpose, and a strong desire to be there.

The grounded Bassett will conclude this camp filled with rising MLS stars, Olympics hopefuls, and future senior U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) players today. After a week of challenging himself, working out as many as three times per day, outrunning his competition, filling his cup with even more self-confidence, and having fun, he is poised to showcase his talents against a strong El Salvador side during an evening friendly in balmy Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

With a full 2021 calendar ahead for the USMNT pool of players, Bassett realizes that representing the United States at the Summer Olympics in Japan with the U23s and playing in the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup tournaments are at his feet.

Bassett, a role model player in the Rapids’ Development Academy and Youth Club, spoke with the Burgundy Wave about his approach to this important camp, how he has been preparing himself for the match, and how he’s doing his best to receive invitations to forthcoming camps.

“We start with an early wake-up call around 8 a.m. Then we got to get tested — a sit and reach test just to test our hamstrings, a groin test, a weigh-in, and fill-out a [wellness] survey. You get breakfast and pick up our gear, then head to training,” Bassett outlined.

The team hotel is minutes from the training complex and playing grounds at MLS’ Inter Miami CF stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“We have video before training, prehab at the gym that gets us ready for training, depending on the day, then we have our training session [on the pitch]. The video sessions are in-depth and doing stuff in the gym — they [coaches and trainers] really focus on that. Normally the training sessions aren’t that long. They are short and sharp, about an hour or so,” he said. Some days include another gym session after lunch and other days they have the option to see a trainer and participate in a recovery session.

During last week’s virtual media session, USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter raved about the training complex. Bassett concurred: “The facilities here are something else — the best MLS facility that I have seen. Kind of European. Very nice.”

Soaking up advice from USMNT Coach Gregg Berhalter and U-23 Coach Jason Kreis

“It is good for me because I never got to work with them [Behalter and Kreis] both in one camp. So it’s good because I am normally with the U20’s,” the 19-year-old explained.

“It shows me both levels, whether I want to move up to the U23’s or even the senior team. I can see what it is like with both of them.

“Both are really good at it [providing guidance] to be honest. It’s been a pretty good atmosphere that they have created here. It makes players want to come back. It is really competitive during training, but it is also fun. I have learned a lot.”

Bassett credits both Kreis and Berhalter for bringing certain aspects of the game to his attention and giving the midfielder advice on how he can improve upon them.

“There is a lot of stuff that I didn’t realize that I needed to work on, maybe it is just the way we play in Colorado. I am normally a guy who runs through the lines a bit more and we have a lot of guys who want the ball at their feet. Even though I consider myself as one of the most technical on the team, there are not many people back home that are willing to run through the lines,” Bassett said.

“I normally thrive at that and because I like making runs through. But here, I am the one that is required to dictate the game, and try things, and try to make that final pass... Jason and Gregg have had a couple conversations with me. They call it processing, how am I am going to get the ball in behind the back of the defense with my final pass. That is the biggest thing that I need to work on this off-season.” Kreis highlighted that to Bassett during one of a few conversations. “That final pass can really take my game to another level.” Bassett added.

In training, Bassett has been playing the right attacking midfielder role, even though he would prefer the left side, where he is more comfortable cutting, dribbling, and being creative. ”Gregg likes to play with one in the six and two center midfielders. Kellyn [Acosta] has been in the same midfield attacking position, but on the other side.”

The Rapids Trio: Cole Bassett, Kellyn Acosta, and Sam Vines

Could Rapids fans see all three on the pitch at the same time? “I hope so,” said Bassett. “I don’t know what Gregg’s plans are exactly. That would be pretty big for the club. We would be the most represented MLS club if we got all three on the field at the same time, so we are hoping for it!”

With 23 caps, the 25-year-old Acosta is one of the oldest and most experienced players at the camp, second only to D.C. United’s Paul Arriola. Bassett commented about seeing Acosta in his element as a leader during the past week.

“It is a different type of Kellyn because the environment from club to country is a lot different at the international level. You have to raise your level,” Bassett explained. “Sometimes back at the club where obviously Kellyn is one of the bigger players and he has done so well for so long, you maybe don’t see that type Kellyn. I have seen a different Kellyn here, it is pretty energetic and he obviously brings his best qualities. He knows how to play this style of soccer... the way he trains, the way he interacts with the players, and knows Gregg’s system... He has a point to prove for sure. It has been on his mind that he deserves here.”

While Bassett is looking for his first USMNT cap, he hopes that fellow Rapids Homegrown Sam Vines will get his second cap with the Yanks. “He is as good as always. The left back spot is the toughest position to find somebody that is very solid and that you can always count on. He [Sam] is the kind of guy that you know what you are going to get when he goes out there. He is one of the more technical left backs, and just finish off the year strong.”

Hopefully all three players will leave this camp having made positive impressions on the coaching staff, as January camp season will be here before they know it and invitations will be arriving soon after Christmas.

Bassett certainly wants to be part of the next camp and wants to fulfill his dream of making the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team. The competition in the midfield has been “stiff and healthy,” Bassett said. He has been going at it with Acosta, LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget, “who is so clean on the ball,” and the Philadelphia Union’s Brenden Aaronson — all fighting for two open positions.

David vs Goliath

Team USA holds a 17-1-5 advantage in all-time games versus El Salvador, the smallest country in continental North America that has qualified for FIFA World Cup play twice in their history. The senior national teams last went head-to-head in the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup regional tournament. The Yanks came up victorious in their quarterfinal match, winning 2-0 with former Rapids ‘keeper Tim Howard in goal. The U-23 USMNT played El Salvador last fall when Rapids fullback Sam Vines, made an appearance in the 6-1 win for the Red, White, and Blue.

12/10 Update: The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) came onto the field with a roar and scored five goals in the first 27 minutes against a hapless El Salvador side in front of 2,600 fans.

Orlando City SC winger Chris Mueller scored twice and had one assist in his USMNT debut. Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola found the back of the net in his first USMNT cap, and LA Galaxy winger Sebastian Lletget, Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson, and DC United’s Paul Arriola all added another apiece during the barrage.

Sam Vines started and Kellyn Acosta came off the bench in the second half. Read the entire recap here.