Cole Bassett meets the goals he wrote on a piece of paper lying on his bed back home

Cole Bassett has been “obsessed” with the U.S. national team and being part of it since devouring the 2014 World Cup as a 12-year-old standout in Littleton, Colo. He'd dreamed of the moment presented to him as the clock neared 90 in the Yanks' end-of-year, “let's-keep-MLS-guys-in-shape” camp closer against 10-man Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The Colorado Rapids phenom, making his international debut, provided the signature touch to the Americans' calendar-year-record 17th victory Saturday night, poking home an 89th-minute rebound to deliver a 1-0 triumph in an otherwise tepid affair at Dignity Health Sports Park.
He celebrated by kissing the U.S. crest on chest.
“You know, I've dreamed about this my whole life, to play for the national team,” Bassett said in the Zoom media session afterward. “I've grown up watching all the people play before me. The 2014 World Cup was a big moment for me. I can remember watching every single game and studying the players, and from then on, I've kind of become really obsessed with trying to make it here.
“For me to finally be here and to score in this moment on my debut, it's something special.”
Two other debutants were involved in the sequence -- San Jose's Cade Cowell played the ball back to Jackson Yueill, who fed Bryan Reynolds for the cross into the box, and it was USL Championship star Jonathan Gomez's shot that Bassett tucked away -- as the Rapids midfielder met both of his camp aims.
“I like to write my goals down,” he said, “and right before this camp I actually wrote down on a piece of paper -- I left it on my bed so right when I get home, you know, I see it -- and the first thing was making my debut, second thing was score a goal. It's pretty special that actually those things came true.”
The opportunity arrived from a chaotic sequence in the B&H box. AS Roma's Reynolds, one of two Europe-based players on Gregg Berhalter's roster, whipped in a cross from the right flank toward the penalty spot. Bassett got his head to it, bending low to do so in a battle with Mehmed Cocic, looping the ball to the left.
Gomez got his head to it ahead of Sasa Maksimovic, and Gyasi Zardes beat Maksimovic to the ball, collecting it in retreat to the 18 and squaring it for Gomez. Goalkeeper Belmin Dizdarevic dived to his right to parry Gomez's first-time shot, and Bassett reacted before Cocic, placing the bouncing ball to the right of the net.
“Before we came in, Gregg told me and Cade that he'd like us to be a bit more narrow and try to get on the end of balls in the box ...,” Bassett said. “I probably should have scored [from Reynolds' cross], to be honest. I think I hit the header with the outside of my head, and it skimmed past me, but then JoGo got a good shot off, and I always try to sniff goals and be in the right spot. Luckily, it bounced to me, and I just put in away from there.”
It was a dream finish for Bassett's second U.S. camp -- he was called for the 2020 closer after a breakthrough campaign with the Rapids but didn't see action in a friendly against El Salvador -- and capped a 2021 dotted with disappointments. The biggest: cancellation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was a big missed opportunity for a lot of us ...,” he said. “The U-20 World Cup would have provided a platform to be seen on the world stage, and a lot of guys before that, that played in the [previous] U-20 World Cup, were able to get moves to Europe and stuff like that and just were able to be seen by a lot of people. Our age group missed out on that, and the thing is that you can't change that. You've got to work with what you're given.
“So for me it was about focusing on Colorado and trying to get to the Olympic team earlier this year, and, obviously, that didn't happen for me. I was cut short of that roster as well [and the U.S. then failed to qualify]. This whole year I've worked with [Rapids assistant coach] Chris Little, and we've kind of written down the goals, and I always want to get back in the national team [after] last December. so for me it was all about making my debut.”
Bassett got the call in the 78th minute, coming on for Jordan Morris at the urging of assistant coach Anthony Hudson, who was in charge of the Rapids when Bassett joined the first team as a homegrown signing in August 2018. Cowell came on at the same time, and Gomez, set to join Real Sociedad next month, made his debut six minutes later. Atlanta United's Brooks Lennon also debuted, getting the start at right back and delivering a decent effort in a little more than an hour -- highlighted by his 14th-minute ball through the goalmouth that Ricardo Pepi should have finished -- before giving way to Reynolds.
“Anthony's urging to put him on because of the impact he can make, the goals that he has in him,” Berhalter said. “He's a guy that shows up and and scores goal, and we're seeing that [in training] during the week with his finishing ability, and he showed that again tonight.”
Bassett, the 57th American, per U.S. Soccer, to score in his debut, said he was “grateful [Hudson] was on the bench, because he knows me ... knows what I can bring.”
He hopes he showed enough that Berhalter will include him in the next camp, slated to start Jan. 6, before the World Cup qualifiers Jan. 27 against El Salvador in Columbus, Jan. 30 against Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, and Feb. 2 against Honduras in St. Paul.
“Once I was given the opportunity [to join the team in Southern California], I was ecstatic, and I just wanted to come into camp and prove to Gregg that I can be here, I can be on qualifying rosters and, hopefully, be a big part of the U.S. program.”
His gained plenty from the experience.
“I feel like under Gregg, it's crazy how much you learn within a short period of time ...,” Bassett said. “It's a little bit different of a style here [than with the Rapids], and you pick up thing so fast, and he's just so detail-oriented in everything that he does, and as a player, it's fun to go into training sessions everyday. You look forward to it, because you know you're going to learn something new, and I feel like I got so much better from the start to end of camp.
“And the best thing about it is I get to understand the principles of a lot that we have here. It's good to have multiple weeks under Gregg to get to learn his style, so if you do get called upon for important games, you know exactly what you need to do to help the team win.
“So for me, it was really important to be in this camp, and, hopefully, I can be at the January one as well.”

Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire

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