FROM ONE EXTREME TO ANOTHER
The Cosmos were not on Freeman's radar a week ago, but team's vision, aspirations impressed him to sign
By Michael Lewis
|Hunter Freeman: "There are other things that they are working on behind the scenes that I learned of. It's quite impressive. It's something that I think that when the details of that start to unfold, I think people will be pretty impressed."
Photo courtesy of the New York Cosmos
Sometimes life just comes down to timing.
A little more than a week ago, the New York Cosmos were not on Hunter Freeman's radar.
Today, he has become the fifth player to sign with the North American Soccer League team.
"To be quite honest, I didn't even really know about anything to do with the Cosmos," Freeman said. "I heard through the grapevine they were starting to put a team together. I knew that Carlos [Mendes, former Red Bull teammate] had signed with the team a while ago. Other than that, I couldn't have told you anything.
"A lot of it was timing with my current situation," he said.
Freeman said he was impressed, "after learning more about not only the team and the project as a whole, and the ambitions of the owners, especially some of those ambitions like the stadium proposal. There are other things that they are working on behind the scenes that I learned of. It's quite impressive. It's something that I think that when the details of that start to unfold, I think people will be pretty impressed."
Back in December the New England Revolution had selected the former Red Bulls right back in the Major League Soccer re-entry draft, was not interested in signing him.
Freeman said the Revolution had made him an offer back then, which he said "was quite unfair."
"I told them at the time I wasn't prepared to sign such an offer at the moment, that I was going to explore my options,' he said during a phone interview on Wednesday. "I was approached by some MLS teams that had interest. At that time, pre-season had just started. Teams wanted to see what they had in their pre-season camps. All the teams in MLS know what I can bring to a team, what I can offer, etc. Teams said they were interested, but I didn't have any offers put on paper."
When the second phase of pre-season began, Freeman decided to sign with the Revs. He called his agent, former MLS player Leo Cullen to start the process. He was eager to get into training camp.
"In the beginning I was excited about New England, I really was," he said. "It was never a plan that I just never wanted to play in New England. That was never the case. I was quite excited about the opportunity. So when we went back to New England, they basically said they didn't want to sign me anymore. The offer that had been on the table wasn't there any more. They didn't want to make me a different offer. It had more or less had gone. It more or less caught me by surprise and my agent by surprise, too."
As they say, when one door closes, another one opens.
The next day, Cosmos assistant coach Alecko Eskandarian, who played with Freeman at the University of Virginia, called his one-time teammate.
"He had been on the job for two or three days," Freeman said. "He said, 'What's going on with you? I don't know what your deal is. But I know you're not really in camp with any teams.' "
Eskandarian explained to the former Red Bulls defender what the Cosmos were doing, their hopes, their stadium projects, among other aspirations.
Later that evening, Eskie called back.
'Look, we're definitely interested," Eskie told Freeman, the defender said. "If you have the same interest, we are prepared to make you an offer by tomorrow. I said, 'Look, right now I am open to anything and everything, to be quite honest. My situation is not what I saw it unfolding '."
Freeman spoke to head coach Giovanni Savarese on the phone. He went to the front office, met the owners, Savarese, COO Erik Stover and the rest of the front office and walked away "quite impressed."
"From yesterday, it took I think it took a week for everything to unfold," he said. "It was a rather quick process. They came to me and made a bold, a good offer and impressed me with their ambitions on what they wanted to do, but it also it sounded like they were going to splash money out there and be irresponsible about it. They are doing it the right way, from what it seems like. the buzz in the last week and in the last day, people are pretty excited about the Cosmos.
How excited? Well, Freeman learned first hand when he and his wife went to the doctor several days ago.
"He asked, 'What team are you playing for?' " said Freeman, who replied, "The Cosmos."
"The Cosmos? They're coming back?" the doctor said.
To which Freeman replied, 'Yes they are.' He said, 'They were fantastic.' He went on for five minutes talking about them."
Freeman said he was stunned how well the public knows the Cosmos.
"It's incredible," he said. "For a team that hasn't literally had a team for 30 years, you throw the name out and everybody in this area, they know exactly what you're talking about. It shows you the weight of their name and the history of the club. they're trying to continue that and they want to do it correctly. They understand you have only one time to make a first impression. While the Cosmos have a lasting impression, this is starting it up again. They understand they have to do it the right way or else it could turn a lot of people off. Those were all things that made it attractive to me. It's exciting."
Freeman was born on Jan. 8 1985, several months after the original incarnation of the Cosmos went out of business.
He admitted he did not know much about the team until he played with the Red Bulls in 2007 and 2008.
"I never actually knew that their last game was before I was born," he said. "It's quite interesting. To be honest, when I really began to learn about the Cosmos I was living in New York. At that time they didn't have any kind of time or presence, just the name."
He attended local soccer functions and the name kept on popping up.
"Obviously in the soccer world the Cosmos name was there," he said. "So, I sensed how big they were. Then I did my own research. I knew that Alecko's father played for them and all the greats that played for the team, Pele and all those guys. It's pretty amazing all those guys coming off to play in the U.S. It would be crazy. You think about 30 years when soccer wasn't as big in our country as it is now. It's quite impressive."