MEGHAN BRENNAN - Sunday, March 21, 2010
Four months following an operation, IK Start defender Hunter Freeman is healthy, happy and off to a fresh start in 2010.

After an early 2009 ankle injury left Freeman playing his Eliteserien debut season with ligament damage, torn cartilage and bone spurs, the Texas native says that his top priority is to recuperate fully from his November surgery.

"My first concern this year is to get healthy and my second concern is to perform. I thought last year I really could only play at 75% of my capability, due to my injury. That is a big difference than being at 100%." Freeman recently told YA staff.

An assist to midfielder Christer Kleiven's second half goal in Start's 2010 opener and win against Sandefjord last Sunday was a step in the right direction on Freeman's road to recovery.

"It has taken longer than I thought it would to recover because recovery slows down the closer you get to being healthy," Freeman explained. "It's a long process and I'm really close. Things will get better by playing games, getting that assist last week also helped build confidence."

Confidence is needed by both Freeman and Start as they head into week two's game against 2009 league champions, Rosenborg.

Start, whom finished ninth in the Eliteserien last year, is responsible for the lone blemish on Roseborg's record, a 2-3 win last October at Lerkendal Stadium.

"There is alot of excitement surrounding the Rosenborg game. They made some good signings in the off season, bringing on some pacy guys. They are always improving, so what we need to do is get a feel for the game early, keep a clean sheet at the beginning and stay confident in our abilities," Freeman said.

Win or lose against Rosenborg, there is one Freeman fan who understand the roller coaster of emotions that comes with playing professional soccer.

Wife, Jamie, is an attacking midfielder for Amazon Grimstad of Norway's Toppserien, and a key factor in Freeman's mental game.

"It definitely helps, she understands the highs and lows that comes with playing professionally. We try not to talk about our soccer careers at home too much but at the same time she'll sit and watch a Champions League match with me. She can relate to me and I can also relate to her," he smiled.

Following Monday's showdown with Rosenborg, Freeman and fellow American Clay Goodson return home the following weekend to face last year's runners-up in Molde.