A packed 2021 calendar awaits U.S. Men’s National Teams (USMNT), especially the U-23 sided that is vying for one of two Concacaf spots that assure the winners the opportunity to represent their nation in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
One Colorado Rapids player that is eyeing a roster spot on the U.S. men’s squad is Cole Bassett. The midfielder had a breakout year in MLS and that earned him an invite to U-23 team head coach Jason Kreis and senior team skipper Gregg Berhalter’s evaluation camp this past December.
According to Kreis, Bassett performed very well. “We had him in December. We took a pretty good look at him — really, really has interesting stuff. I thought he had a terrific season in MLS. He is very, very well fond for the national team’s program,” Kreis said during an interview with the Burgundy Wave.
Yet, at the close of the camp when the team hosted El Salvador, Bassett did not earn a cap as was expected. Nor did he earn an invitation to this month’s training camp that is now underway in Bradenton, Florida. This camp combines talented senior and U-23 players who are training on and floating between parallel fields—one supervised by Kreis and the other by Berhalter.
Bassett’s competition and challenging opportunity
A formidable pool of midfielders is in this camp. On the U-23 pitch are the likes of Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg/GER), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), and Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes). The on-site senior squad midfielders include Rapids’ Kellyn Acosta, Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), and Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC).
While Kreis has an affinity for Bassett’s technical play and tremendous upside, he is under immense pressure to guide the U-23s to the Olympic games. Selecting the best-of-the-best players that can step through a highly competitive qualifying tournament is paramount. Team USA has not been in an Olympic stadium in 12 long—and at times, pain-filled—years. With that on Kreis’ mind, the timing just may not be right for the gifted Colorado Rush and Rapid’s Development Academy product. The high-potential attacking winger is like a fine burgundy wine—he is still maturing.
While attending the December camp, the 19-year old Bassett spoke with the Burgundy Wave and shared- “Jason and Gregg have had a couple of 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.” Bassett added, ”That is the biggest thing that I need to work on this off-season. That final pass can really take my game to another level.”
“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,” he said.
When selecting players for this camp Kreis told the Burgundy Wave, “I just think from my point of view when looking at the other attacking midfielder players in this group, from an experience point of view, the number of times they played professionally, the number of times that we had them camp, meant that he [Cole] was left out a little bit.”
Kreis continued, “But he certainly will be in contention for the March qualification. Maybe this is a good time to make it clear to everybody that there are no restrictions, not stints that you have to be in the January camp in order to make the qualification. It is very possible that there are several players not in this camp that we will be leaning on in the qualification.”
With still a lot of football to be played between now and the close of the Olympic qualifiers, perhaps the quick study and always improving Bassett will catch a few breaks, elbow his way onto the U-23 roster, and find himself representing the United States in Japan his summer.
If there is one Coloradoan that is capable of doing just that, it is the invincible Cole Bassett.