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At 17, Colorado Rapids homegrown Cole Bassett looks to make mark on MLS

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – At just 17-years-old, Colorado Rapids midfielder Cole Bassett is too young to rent a car, or buy a beer. But he’s already earned one thing that money can’t buy; the trust and backing of head coach Anthony Hudson.

“I’d been speaking with [Rapids GM Padraig Smith] so many times about Cole, saying we need to sign him,” Hudson told Pro Soccer USA. “I think the biggest thing I kept saying was ‘I trust him’. I trust him to play in a game. I trust him because of what he’s shown us on the training pitch every day and the type of character he is.”

That trust level led to Hudson rolling the young Homegrown player out in last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Portland Timbers. As Colorado looked to chase the result, Bassett substituted into the match in the 71st minute for defender Kortne Ford.

“It’s definitely a proud moment for me and my family because I’ve worked so hard for this for so many years,” Bassett said of his MLS debut. “I’m really proud to make my debut but I wish it could’ve ended in a better result because we deserved more.”

Like Ford, Bassett was one of the top college prospects for the University of Denver men’s soccer program before signing a Homegrown contract with Colorado last month. But unlike his teammate, Bassett chose to forgo the college experience. The decision wasn’t an easy one.

“Kortne and I talked about it a lot as well as Sam Hamilton,” Bassett said. “I spoke with [DU head coach] Jamie Franks and the staff there as well. Part of me is a little bit sad not to be able to go to DU, it’s a great program, but ultimately I had to decide to stay with the Rapids.”

At first, his parents were nervous at the idea of passing up a college scholarship, but the Rapids’ courting of Bassett, along with the chance to take classes via the MLS partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, eased the anxieties.

“For around six months they spoke with my parents and I had a lot of time to think about it,” Bassett continued. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a professional soccer player, so when I got this opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up.”

With his debut against Portland, Bassett became the youngest player in Colorado Rapids history to play first team minutes for the club. It was a surreal experience for someone who has followed his local team since childhood.

“I started coming to Rapids games when I was six-years-old,” Bassett recalls. “Nick LaBrocca was my favorite midfielder and I loved watching Conor Casey. The cool thing is [Casey] is now my coach and we stay after practice to work on finishing.”

Casey is just one of several within the Rapids facility willing to lend advice to the youngster.

“Guys like Barnesy [Giles Barnes], [Shkelzen] Gashi and Enzo [Martinez] are always out there giving me tips throughout the game and before,” Bassett said. “The biggest advice I’ve received was from Tim Howard. He told me to play simple. If you miss a pass, get right back out there and get the other one. From the coaching staff, they told me to be confident, show what you’ve done to get here.”

Taking charge in his own path and development is one of Bassett’s best attributes. To those that know him, it comes as no surprise.

“It’s always hard to step in as a young player without the development that most guys get in college but he’s come to me with questions and I don’t hesitate to help him out,” said Ford. “He has a very good idea on his shoulders that he has to be in control of his own development and he’s taken on that role.”

Hudson also offered praise for the young Homegrown. But the Rapids manager also emphasized the importance for Bassett and the team’s other young players to keep working hard and remain level headed.

Said Hudson, “What he needs to keep doing is responding by having unbelievable discipline, unbelievable attitude and at no point can he get carried away with anything.”

Having reached one milestone, Bassett is now focused on his next big goal for his career and this season;  cracking the starting XI.

“Ultimately, I want to get a start before the end of this season,” said Bassett. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to keep working towards it and talk to the coaching staff to see what I need to do to get to that point.”

With Colorado’s playoff odds currently at a near mathematical impossibility, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hudson play the youth as the team’s disastrous 2018 comes to a close. But as Bassett explained, the team is currently focused on several collective goals for the seven matches that remain.

“As a team, we want to start playing the best that the Rapids have ever played, football-wise,” he said. “We want to reach 600 passes a game, reach 60 percent possession at home or on the road and dominate the game. We want to work towards that and build towards next season.”

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