Coming out of halftime against the New England Revolution last Saturday, Cole Bassett knew something needed to change.
The Rapids had entered the mid-game break in a scoreless stalemate with the Revs, but something felt off. The chances weren't there in the first half. The rhythm of the game wasn’t there. Bassett joked after the 2-1 win that it felt like they forgot how to even play soccer to start the game.
But there’s accepting that something is wrong and then there’s doing something about it. Bassett emphasized the latter.
“We said at halftime, ‘All right, we didn't have the best half, but, you know, come out with energy these first 10 minutes. Try to impose a little bit on them,’” Bassett said.
Less than three minutes into the second half, the Rapids had an early chance to put the words to practice. A foul in the attacking third gave the club a chance at a dangerous set play. Midfielder Connor Ronan, the free-kick taker, waved his hand in the air to signal the start of the play.
By design, the set-play formation was intended to give an option for anyone in the box to score. Even if Ronan had mishit the cross, the play had Rapids players positioned in multiple areas to cover a mistake and create a chance.
“(Rapids goalkeeper coach Chris) Sharpe dials those up,” Bassett explained. “So, I just make my run, and if it goes in my area, I'm meant to score.”
There was little reason to cover for a mistake, however. A perfect cross from Ronan found Bassett making a run toward the goal in the center of the box, Ronan’s chosen target. The ball made clean contact to Bassett’s head before propelling into the back of the net. It was the opening goal of the game.
For Bassett, it was cathartic.
The Rapids had gone five league games without a goal, and the significance of an early breakthrough was not lost on him or the rest of the team.
“I hope that for the coaching staff, I hope it brought them belief,” Bassett said. “And you could tell on the field as well, even for myself, I thought I played a pretty bad first half, so I had to come out second half and kind of change that, and I started hot, and (the goal) just got my confidence going. Then for the rest of the half, it was good.”
Belief isn’t something that can be swayed with words alone, but rather, with action. It’s something that’s hard to come by in the midst of a losing streak, one that ultimately ended with the dismissal of four-year head coach Robin Fraser. But to Bassett, his goal offered a spark to help the team buy in, to believe in the tactics that interim head coach Chris Little had put in place. When Little joined the club as an assistant coach ahead of the 2021 season, Bassett felt a connection with the coach right away.
The American midfielder had been called to the U-20 U.S. Men’s National Team when they were training in Mexico in 2021. After he returned to Colorado, he was mandated a quarantine period due to policies around the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I couldn't train with the team for about five to six days,” Bassett said. “And (Little) was the guy that trained with me individually during that time period.”
That was the first moment the two established a relationship. The two of them would work together in video sessions, through training. When Bassett was playing below his standard of play, Little didn’t hold back.
“I remember a couple years ago, before I left for Europe, he kind of got on me,” Bassett said. “He said, ‘If you keep playing like this, you're not getting back in the national team.’ And that's the kind of person I like.”
Before, Bassett might have gotten frustrated by a poor first half and let it affect him going into the second half. But with more responsibilities on his shoulders, the homegrown midfielder understands the weight of his role and the maturity that comes with it. When the team was searching desperately for a breakthrough, Bassett made it happen. When forward Calvin Harris scored the game-winning goal, Bassett was the first one running to him, cheering on his teammates as they look to end the season on a positive note.
Even when the team fell to a two-goal hole in Wednesday's match against Seattle, Bassett didn’t relent. He noted after the game the second goal conceded was in part his fault, but it didn’t deter him.
As the clock started to climb near the end of the game, Bassett was determined to help change the tides, scoring at the 80th minute to put the team back into the game. Although the club was unable to find an equalizer Wednesday, the perseverance led by Bassett was a prime example of the impact he hopes to make for the team.
It’s the trust that Bassett earned with his history with Little and an opportunity Bassett plans to make the most of — Saturday and Wednesday’s goals being just the start.
“I need to take that trust that (Little) gives me on my shoulders and continue to lead the team.”