EDITORIAL – Year after year, the one thing more consistent about the Rapids than failing to make the playoffs has been their lack of and need for a true number ten in the midfield. Even during the Rapids 2016 playoff run, the position of most need was clearly that central attacking midfield role. Little did they know the solution to their problems was growing up in the Rapids own backyard: Cole Bassett. The Rapids midfielder the team has so desperately needed.
The Emergence Of Cole Bassett – Rapids Midfielder Missing Link
As the Rapids prepare to play Sporting KC at home on Sunday, September 27, an outside observer would assume the name on everyone’s lips would be KC’s new club record signing Alan Pulido who is returning from injury. Instead, it’s a 19 year old from Colorado who has recently been making waves with his hometown Rapids. The homegrown is currently being touted as one of the top prospects MLS has to offer the soccer world.
🇺🇸 Cole Bassett (19) this season for the @ColoradoRapids:
✅ 7 starts
⚽️ 4 goals
🅰️ 4 assists
3 goals, 2 assists in his last 4 games. Won 3 of those 4. 🔥
It’s now time to count Bassett as one of the top young players in MLS. And a big target for Euro clubs too. pic.twitter.com/EFsqPWm3hc
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) September 24, 2020
Born and raised in Littleton Colorado, Cole Bassett signed a homegrown contract with the Rapids back in August of 2018 at 17 years old. When he first started making the team sheet under then head coach Anthony Hudson, the Rapids were playing a diamond midfield. The formation had a purely defensive midfielder forming the bottom of the diamond, and a number ten up top, with a supporting midfielder to either side.
Soon after his debut, Bassett became a familiar face on the pitch for Rapids supporters in that supporting midfielder role.
“Coming in my first year – I wasn’t babied at all but most things my first year went pretty well, or how I wanted it to at least. I got to break into the team pretty early and got to start pretty early as well.”
— Cole Bassett (@colebassett19) October 29, 2018
Bassett Excels And Becomes A Regular Starter In 2020
As new head coach Robin Fraser’s tactics take shape, Bassett has become an integral part of the offense. Bassett started in the last four games the Rapids have played, which the Rapids all handily won with the exception of a 4-1 loss to FC Dallas on September 16.
Bassett has gone from 1,063 minutes played in 2019 with two goals and two assists in 20 games played to four goals and four assists in 565 minutes played in 9 games so far in 2020. His production has doubled with half as many minutes played. He even earned man of the match honors in his most recent performance in the Rapids victory against San Jose.
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) September 24, 2020
Cole Bassett, Rapids Midfielder Earning Recognition Both At Home And In Europe
As pointed out by Jake Shapiro, Bassett has 12 goals and assists in 1,931 minutes of play. In comparison, Brenden Aaronson, a 19 year old MLS player soon headed to RB Salzburg, only has 9 in 2,754 minutes.
Cole Bassett AGAIN.
He’s the same age as Brenden Aaronson, has better stats, and has already had bids for him from Europe.
if you’re looking for the next player to hype up as Aaronson leaves for Europe, this is him. https://t.co/SLYjYus82o
— MLS Buzz (@MLS_Buzz) September 24, 2020
“He’s not playing like a homegrown anymore,” Jonathan Lewis said recently. “He’s playing like a full-fledged pro. I think for me, that’s the biggest thing, and that’s why he’s been really successful. He’s always had the talent, (but) it’s about him now fitting into those shoes.”
Lewis isn’t the only one giving his teammate plaudits:
— Andre Shinyashiki (@AShinyashiki9) September 24, 2020
What Changes Have Made Bassett And The Rapids Successful?
The Rapids began 2020 with two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder in front of them. They have since inverted their previous midfield triangle, putting one defensive number six behind two box to box number eights. Bassett and Acosta have been creative and effective in these number eight positions. They take turns making sprints up the field into offensive positions and both track back to provide defensive support. Acosta is more defensive and Bassett generally plays as the more offensive of the two midfielders.
At times the center forward will come backwards to receive the ball and Bassett will actually become one of the furthest forward players on the pitch. In this goal by Shinyashiki, watch how Shinyashiki actually drops back as Bassett drifts forward. Bassett receives the ball, beats a player, and is able to pass to a sprinting Shinyashiki who ran up from behind.
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) September 24, 2020
Bassett is a very effective passer in this position. In the recent 5-0 win against San Jose, not only did Bassett add another goal and assist to his tally, he also completed 90% of his passes. The developing young midfielder can get very far up the field when he gets freedom to do so. He’s often lethal when he does.
Bassett Has Been Getting High Up The Field And It’s Leading To Goals
This wide open volley from a Sam Vines cross is a prime example of Bassett taking advantage of that forward space. As Namli sits back and draws the outside number 3 defender up field to him, he then switches the ball to Vines, who crosses it to Bassett, who has now exploited that space on the right side of the field to score in style.
Homegrown to Homegrown.
That’s how we roll!! pic.twitter.com/x7G9XgETg6
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) September 20, 2020
Even when Bassett is not directly producing, he’s putting himself in positions to do so. Take a look at even the goals Bassett was not directly part of and you can see how he’s positioning himself in a dangerous position up field, like during this goal from Rubio against Real Salt Lake:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 13, 2020
While Rubio ultimately decides to take the shot himself, he could have easily sent Basset a pass on the right side. That would have given Bassett either a clear shot on goal or the ability to send a dangerous cross back into the middle for Rubio to finish.
This new offensive scheme has greatly benefited Bassett and the Rapids as a team, who are now sitting a a few points from the top of the Western Conference. The Rapids will try to take their next step up the ranks of the West Sunday against Sporting KC. The Rapids will need to keep Bassett involved if they want to keep their recent form going.
— Marcus Owerko (@MarcOwerko) September 21, 2020