Monday, September 13, 2010
IK Start defender Hunter Freeman is hoping to earn a shot at impressing US coach Bob Bradley and becoming a mainstay in the national team player pool.
Bradley has repeatedly said to his players that playing regularly is a high priority when it comes to selection, and perhaps no player has met that requirement more in the last two years than Freeman who has started nearly every single match in defense for his club in the Norwegian Eliteserien.
Yet while compatriot and fellow backline teammate Clay Goodson has repeatedly been called for different international friendlies and this past summer's World Cup, Freeman has yet to debut with the US men's senior team.
It is a trend that the native Texan hopes to reverse at some point in the immediate future especially with next summer's Gold Cup nearing.
Freeman believes if he were ever given the opportunity, he could show Bradley all the merits he could at the right back position.
"Obviously I know Bob has seen me play when he has come to watch Clay," Freeman recently told YA. "He coached me when I was with the U-23 squad and almost drafted me so he knows me. I've represented the US at every youth national team level but never with the senior team. All I want is a chance to prove what I can bring to the team. Hopefully one day I'll get that."
Freeman concedes that a cap might have already been on his resume had it not been for two ill-timed injuries.
"I know that when I was in MLS playing under Bruce [Arena], I had heard that if I was going to be called for the Copa America team, but then I got hurt," he continued. "Then last year I got hurt again and had offseason surgery so obviously was not part of the January camp."
The former Red Bull is playing in a system at Start where head coach Knut Torum relies on his defenders to push far forward and attack.
Should Bradley ever call on Freeman to wear a Stars and Stripes jersey, he will know that he has a player whose engine never stops which the defender believes is his biggest asset.
"I love to join in the attack and provide service into the box," he said of his preferred playing style. "My work rate and my engine are big parts of my game. Admittedly there area couple moments when it would be nice to pass off and not have to make a 50 yard run every time, but honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way."
Freeman also believes that he is playing some of his best soccer in years which he attributes to finally being healthy following offseason ankle injury.
"My ankle has been good this season," Freeman noted. "I didn't have much of a preseason so really the first half of the season was like a preseason for me and taking everything into consideration, I feel like I played well. I feel really confident now. Before I was lacking a little due to the ankle and my fitness level, but now it seems to be improving and progressing."
This season Start find themselves in a similar position to last year where they are several points outside of a Europa League berth heading into the final two months.
The former US Under-20 player believes the club can make a run at European competition, but the fact that they lost two key pieces during the transfer window will make it difficult to reach that goal.
"We're four points right now from a European spot and I think if we could have kept the club together and added a few pieces, we could do it," he elaborated. "But losing [former team captain Geir Ludvig] Fevang and [Cristian] Bolanos has been tough. We miss their qualities especially from Fevang.
"The club has aspirations for us to be in Europe but they also aspire to practice financial restraint so it's difficult. For me, it's a dream of mine to play in any European competition. I have friends who have played in it and if you ask them would you ever want to play in a Champions League or Europa League, the answer is always yes."
Next season will mark the third and final year of Freeman's contract with Start and there will be plenty of speculation as to whether or not the ex-MLSer will finish out the 2011 season in Kristiansand.
One thing for certain though is that when he does decide to change teams, Freeman will be looking to become part of a group that can contend for a title, something that he has yet to experience in his career.
"As a player, you always think about the future but honestly I really haven't thought about it too much," acknowledged the 25 year old. "There are always opportunities in the final year of a contract so mainly I have just been thinking in my own head about what I want. I haven't had any discussions with the club. I've played in every single game here and think I've grown as a player and now have more experience.
"One thing though is that I've never been on a championship team or have been competing seriously for a trophy," concluded Freeman. "I'm now at a stage in my career where I want to be part of a team that can win a title or compete for a trophy."
Freeman and Start round back into action next weekend when they take on Stromsgodset.