One of the more interesting story lines of the Fall Season for the New York Cosmos has been Hunter Freeman’s move to center back following the return of local boy Jimmy Mulligan. Mainly a right back during his time with the Cosmos, Freeman has spent each of the last four games this fall in a central position.
“One thing I bring is versatility,” said Freeman when asked about the change in positioning after their win over the Rowdies. “On every team I’ve played right back, left back, right midfield, center midfield, and on this team I’ve played a lot of center back, especially the past two years. It’s actually a position I played on the U-15 National Team with Ken Lolla, and that’s where I started. Obviously I’m not the biggest of guys, so I got slotted out wide. But, I enjoy it.”
“For me, when you get old like I do and you’ve played right back for a long period of time, this might sound funny, but it gets boring. You’ve played it for so long. When I move in the center, there’s a lot of things I need to get better at and learn, but it challenges me. Sometimes, when you’ve played thirteen years, you need those challenges, for your personal reasons, not that I don’t wake up and want to play soccer.”
It was odd to hear Hunter Freeman, OG Cosmo and mainstay of their back line, speak about his career with a bit of docile uncertainty in his voice. After the comment about waking up and wanting to play soccer, the 31 year old trailed off, as if his mind went to his family, his broadcasting career, and his future. For the shortest of moments, Freeman seemed to be elsewhere, wondering what his future held. He refocused, and followed with what it meant tactically for the Cosmos, and added a quip about former Cosmos trialist Georgios Samaras.
“For me, it’s a totally different game. Out wide, it’s a lot of running, up and down. Center back, the way we play, it’s a lot of running because we open up. We try to play out of the back and we try to play the right way, so it’s different than most center backs. That’s why I enjoy it, that’s why I think Gio enjoys it, my distribution out of the back.” ”
Obviously, a lot of teams we play, they sit in and they give the center backs a lot of time on the ball. Last week in Oklahoma, the first half I had the ball the whole time. I come out the second half and Samaras is man-marking me the whole game. I said to George ‘Hey, you’re man-marking me?’ and he goes ‘Yeah. I’m man-marking you.’ You know what that means? Carlos is going to get the ball the whole time, and that’s what you saw in that game.”
Freeman’s move to center back adds his name to the revolving door that has become the second center back spot next to Carlos Mendes following Roversio’s second injury of the year against the New England Revolution. Freeman follows Seattle Sounders loanee Jimmy Ockford and newcomer David Ochieng to the role, although Freeman and Ochieng featured together Saturday (Savarese called it a “tactical” decision to sit Mendes). Freeman gave his thoughts on the Cosmos back four, and a gutsy performance by David Ochieng.
“Me and Los [Carlos Mendes] have played together a lot, and we’re comfortable. In Ockford and Ochieng, we have two young guys that are still learning. Tonight, Ochieng, difficult beginning to the match for him. But, give him credit, he got over it. I told him [as soon as the second goal] that’s what you have to do. You can’t change what’s happened. At that point there was still 60, 70 minutes left in the game, and he’s got to move on. Credit to him, second half he played some great balls and competed well. I told him at the end of the game, we’re a team. We win as a team and lose as a team. I know he feels good, because he knows he made a couple mistakes, but we got the win. That’s the most important thing.”
Although the position is still a bit foreign, it looks like Hunter Freeman is slowly looking like an answer to a center back conundrum that has plagued the New York Cosmos since the re-boot.