Scan through the highlights of Colorado’s 2-0 win Saturday night at the LA Galaxy and you’ll see a common theme: youth.
Homegrowns Cole Bassett (19) and Sam Vines (21) teamed up for their opening goal in the 40th minute, as the former latched onto a precise cross from the left back. Then there’s the 78th-minute goal from Jonathan Lewis (23) that put the game to bed, when the winger fed off a low cross from Braian Galvan (19) after a clever Andre Shinyashiki (23) pass.
The Rapids deployed their youngest lineup of the 2020 season – it clocked in at 24.9 years on average – and ended LA’s six-game unbeaten run. They also got their second win in eight days, climbing back into a Western Conference playoff spot.
“I think all the players that were involved in the goals tonight, me, Vinesy, Jonny, Andre, Braian, all of us have dreams of playing for our national teams, to play at the next level and to be regular starters here first at the Rapids,” Bassett said. “We’re all really hungry when we’re on the field to try and get goals, assists and help the team win most importantly. I think we bring that energy and it shows on the field. I really think that we’ve developed this good youth connection. It shows in the locker room, we all have all really good friendships, and then on the field it’s coming into play so far.”
Three of those contributions came from US youth or senior-squad players (Bassett, Lewis, Vines), while Shinyashiki’s a Brazilian who used to star at the University of Denver and Galvan is an Argentine youth international with club roots at Club Atletico Colon. Even if their backgrounds are different, head coach Robin Fraser thinks there’s a common commitment and ruthlessness that aligns Colorado’s youngsters.
“It’s exciting when you get a group of young players who are really hard-working and compliant and they play to the system, then they bring what they do individually really well and make it work,” Fraser said. “So I’m really proud of a lot of the young guys who we see making strides every week. This is a club – we definitely want to invest in our youth and we see some of the young players coming through from the academy and even some of the players who we brought in who are young players. We’re very much about developing players and we feel like we have a really good group."
Colorado’s oldest starter Saturday was goalkeeper William Yarbrough (31), and even 25-year-olds like center back Lalas Abubakar and midfielder Kellyn Acosta are comparative veterans. Through their own academy, overseas additions and intra-MLS trades, the Rapids have leaned on young talent.
But there’s excitement around the progress that Bassett, specifically, is making. He has three goals and three assists on the year, already outpacing his production from 2019 when he grew into a more-established first-team contributor. The academy product has had to earn Fraser’s trust, too.
Watch: Cole Bassett goal vs. LA Galaxy
GOAL: Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids - 40th minute
“We talked about that as a young player, you have to earn your manager’s trust and it’s not a knock, it’s just the way it goes,” Fraser said of conversations with Bassett. “Certainly throughout this year and recently he’s really gotten hold of it and is doing a really good job on both ends of the field. The timing of his runs are excellent. He has a good nose for the goal, he knows when to show up at the right time, and what we’re seeing now really is the maturation process of Cole really, I think, is in good form at the moment.
“He seems to get better week after week in his understanding of where he needs to be and how his positioning helps us, and then out of that how he can make himself dangerous. I think he’s in a very good run at the moment.”
Starting five of Colorado’s last six games, Bassett spoke loftily about his self-imposed standards. He trained with Arsenal last winter, and referenced world-class players past and present like Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and current Chelsea manager Frank Lampard when evaluating his evolution.
“I think it’s due to the way that we’re playing as a team right now,” Bassett said of his form. “I think our movement’s really good, our positioning, and it’s allowing me to get into really good spots in the attacking third. That’s just up to me to finish them off and that’s kind of my M.O., to try to be a goal-scoring midfielder. So I have to continue to do it – you can’t just have a one-off game and do it and not score the next. The best players in the world, De Bruyne, Lampard in the past, they score or assist every single game. I have to keep doing that.”