Chris Sharpe waxed nostalgic as midfielder Cole Bassett prepared to embark on one of the biggest moves of his young soccer career. The Rapids’ assistant coach sent the Homegrown a clip of his 15-year-old self in his first-ever training session with the Academy. While Bassett considered his younger self’s play very “raw” at the time, he admitted that he was much more well-rounded by the time he left for the Netherlands.
Today, he tells an even greater story of development.
“There's certain things that I didn't have in my game when I left,” he said. “I think I played at one pace too much, I don't think I used enough intensity. Or maybe I just didn't realize that I could be pushed to a different level…But it was definitely one of the things that was highlighted to me while I was [in Colorado] that I would need if I wanted to make the jump to Europe so I think I learned that a lot now.”
Bassett now returns to his childhood team with a fresh take on life, soccer and what growth means to him. The homecoming carries tales of his time in the Netherlands for the past 10 months, where the 21-year-old was loaned out to Feyenoord Rotterdam and later, Fortuna Sittard. He registered one goal and one assist in 19 appearances across both clubs.
When asked to describe his time in the Eredivisie in three words, he asked for one more to better encapsulate the experience.
“Different than I thought,” he said.
“As a young kid here, you always have an idea of what it is (playing in Europe). But you really don't know and you can't prepare yourself until you get over there and start playing because you really just don't have a clue about what exactly it is, the pressure there is, how intense training is every day, and just the daily lifestyle.”
Bassett left the Rapids as a 20-year-old who grew up in Littleton, played for his home state’s team, and never lived outside a Colorado zip code. The move across the Atlantic by himself was monumental, to say the least.
Feyenoord’s operations staff assisted in the moving and adjustment process, but Bassett quickly learned how to handle the housekeeping himself, getting his residency card approved, a work permit, and finding garages to keep his car maintained. Once at Sittard, his ability to adjust was put to the test after being handed the keys to a manual car. Bassett had only ever driven on an automatic transmission.
“[That was] unique because nobody taught me, so they just handed me the car and I kind of had to figure it out on my own. The first couple days I almost caused a few accidents, it was not good.”
Despite the vehicle struggles, the growth he experienced overseas was something he’s grateful for at his age. He’s become more proficient in Spanish through help from his teammates, picked up some Dutch and traveled to 10 countries in just under a year.
“I learned a lot and I think I needed to get away from home,” he said. “I was kind of in a bubble here living with my parents and I was comfortable. So I think it was good to get away and grow up because now I feel like I'm an adult even though I'm still young, but that part was good for me. Not only soccer-wise, but growing up as a human.”
While MLS teams compete for fanbases with multiple different sports teams in each city, the culture of soccer in Europe is unbridled by such outside forces. Fans come out in droves to their city’s stadiums on gameday, selling out 50,000 seats to cheer on their team. The fans’ passion is a huge motivator, said Bassett.
“You're walking around the streets and you never consider yourself famous or a celebrity, but it's just cool how they love to interact with you and come up to you all the time and stuff like that, but they also put pressure on you,” he said. “I mean, 50,000 people are there and you're not doing well. They're gonna want to win. So I think I learned how to deal with that a lot; being in the eye of so many.”
Bassett’s time away and return to Colorado has put his goals for the future into perspective. Another spell in Europe is always on the vision board, as well as playing in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. But his growth in the past year made him see the things he hopes to attain through a different, more present outlook.
“Sometimes I think I do look too far into the future of, you know, ‘I want to play in the Premier League someday.’ I definitely need to embrace the spot that I'm in, and really buy into that club, and everything that's going on day-to-day,” he said. “I think I’ll improve more than if I'm always looking towards the next target because it is good to set dreams, I do think that I could do a better job of, while I'm at the club, fully embracing it and being there and helping the team win. I think that will push me towards the things that I'm trying to reach.”