February 14, 2013
THAT FACE IS FAMILIAR
Freeman looking forward to playing alongside ex-teammate Mendes again
By Michael Lewis
|Hunter Freeman played alongside Carlos Mendes on the Red Bulls from 2007-2008.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
When the New York Cosmos take to the practice field for the first time this spring, at least two teammates on the new team won't need any introductions.
In fact, it will be a reunion of sorts for Hunter Freeman and Carlos Mendes.
Not only were they teammates on the New York Red Bulls during the 2007-2008 Major League Soccer seasons, they played next to each other on the pitch. Mendes usually performs at central defense on the right side and Freeman is a right back.
"It's pretty unique," Freeman said on Wednesday. "I don't think you run into that very often where you have two guys who are quite young, who have played together before and end up on the same team. not only played together, but literally played right next to one another.
"I think in soccer, especially in the backline, the continuity and the relationships that you have with one another is extremely important. Yeah, while we haven't played together in five years or so, we still kind of know each other's tendencies and what type of player each one is, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Especially a team that is starting from scratch, I would like to think that's a plus. We won't truly know until we get out onto the field, but for me personally, if I'm going to play with somebody who I know and I know who Carlos is and what he stands for, that's exciting for me. I feel a lot more comfortable in that situation than playing with somebody who i have no idea who they are and what they bring to the table."
On Wednesday, Freeman became the fifth player signed by the Cosmos and there is no secret that the team is building from the back up. Mendes was the first player signed. Former Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Kyle Reynish recently joined the club and last week Spanish midfielder Ayoze, who also can play in the back, also signed on with the North American Soccer League club.
If you connect the dots, three of those players are defensive-minded and a fourth can play on the backline in a pinch.
"They are being very meticulous on how they are doing things and doing it the right way," Freeman said. "They are building the team from the spine and from the back forward. I think that's not maybe something you see, especially a team with a team like the Cosmos, trying to make a big splash.
"You maybe think they're going to sign a few forwards in their first signing or something like that to make a splash. I think they're still making the splash, don't get me wrong. I think there will be some even bigger ones to come. They're doing things the right way. They are putting thought into the process not saying, 'This guy's available.' "
With the Cosmos playing the fall side of the NASL schedule, intense training probably won't begin until late spring, which gives Freeman and his teammates some extra time on his hands.
Freeman has some personal plans to complete before worrying about training, such as moving and packing his belongings from Denver, Colo. to the metropolitan area. His wife hails from New Jersey, so the Freemans are near relatives.
His wife is pregnant with their second daughter and she is due on April 4. If Freeman was still in MLS, he wouldn't necessarily be around the due date and help afterwards.
"That's something that will be nice to be able to be around a little bit more than if I would be with an MLS team, where I would be traveling and all that stuff," Freeman said. "It definitely wasn't a deciding factor, [signing with the Cosmos] but it's something that works out in my favor and it would nice. I think if anybody who has kids definitely would understand that.
"When my first child was born, we moved from Houston to Colorado three weeks later. I was in pre-season, double days and traveling for 10-12 days at a time. I just had a huge change in my life and I didn't really got the total experience of it. That's definitely something I'm looking forward to. Once you have kids, you realize how precious those little moments are."