Cole Bassett has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Saturday night in Carson, California’s Dignity Health Sports Park, Bassett was perfected his trade.
The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) newbie came on as a substitute in the 78th minute of a tug-o-war international friendly between the U.S. and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ten minutes after stepping on the pitch, the Colorado native, Colorado Rush and Rapids Academy homegrown was lurking inside the 18-yard box. He was half a dozen steps from the Dragons’ goal mouth.
Bassett pounced on the ball that had just ricocheted off of the hands of Bosnia’s second-half goalkeeper Bemin Dizdarevic. The charging Bassett promptly slapped the free ball into the back of the net to win the match in the 89th minute. It was his debut and first goal with the senior side.
The Yanks hunkered down until the final whistle blew to the delight of thousands of red, white and blue supporters.
“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life, to play for the national team, and I’ve grown up watching all the people play before me,” an effusive Bassett said. “The 2014 World Cup was a big moment for me. I can remember watching every single game and studying the players. Just from then on, I’ve kind of become really obsessed with trying to make it here and for me to finally be here and to score in this moment on my debut, it’s something special and especially for my family, they’ve sacrificed a lot for me to get here.”
Credit is due to former Colorado Rapids manager Anthony Hudson and current USMNT assistant coach. Hudson lobbied head coach Gregg Berhalter on the sideline to sub-in Bassett for Jordan Morris. Berhalter concurred with the proposed swap.
“Anthony Hudson was urging to put him on because of the impact he can make and the goals that he has in him,” Berhalter stated during his press conference. “Cole’s a guy that shows up and scores goals, and we were seeing that during the week with his finishing ability. He showed that again tonight.”
The USMNT wraps up its 2021 season on a high note with the win. The team ends the year with 17-2-3 and a .841 winning percentage, the team’s best in a calendar year in which five or more matches were played. Milestones included winning the Concacaf Nations Cup in Denver, Colorado over a stifling Mexico side, and again, trumping the El Tri in a crucial World Cup Qualifying showdown in Columbus, Ohio.
In another milestone achieved during the game, Rapids’ Kellyn Acosta earned his 21st cap of 2021, marking the most appearances by a USMNT player in a calendar year since 1994. Acosta is the 11th different player to earn 21 or more appearances but the first to do it outside of the team’s residency years in 1993 and 1994.
Rapids’ center back Auston Trusty, who participated in the December camp, was available off the bench but did not receive playing time.
Berhalter and his coaching staff will now train their eyes preparing for the team’s January 2022 camp, plus a trio of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers.
The USA currently sits in second place in the table through the eight matches played in the compressed CONCACAF 14-game final round World Cup Qualifying Octagonal Tournament. They are one point behind Team Canada.
The top three teams earn an automatic berth to Qatar next November 2022, while the fourth-place finisher goes on to play in a place in a match abroad.
The Yanks will host El Salvador on January 27th, then travel north to Hamilton, Ontario to face-off with Canada. On February 2nd, they will close out the international winter window with a match against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota.