Freeman happy to land with Toronto FC, for now
Late-season acquisition hopes to lift MLS club into playoffs
Hunter Freeman is looking to get his career back on track, and hopes a pitstop in Toronto can send him on the road to redemption.
Toronto FC acquired the American defender until the end of the this Major League Soccer season as part of a trade with the New York Red Bulls last Friday.
Freeman, 23, is in the final year of his current deal, and has already signed a pre-contract with IK Start and will join the Norwegian club in January.
Freeman is essentially a late-season rental, picked up by Toronto FC in order to add some defensive depth and help the team down the season stretch.
"I knew Toronto was after me for about a month and I didn't think it was going to happen, but thankfully it did, and I'm happy to be here and trying to help the club get into the playoffs," Freeman told CBCSports.ca.
The Texas native left the Red Bulls after two seasons on less-than-ideal terms. A former member of the U.S. under-23 national team, Freeman lost his starting job with New York earlier this season and his lack of playing time cost him a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad that competed at the Beijing Games last month.
Frustrated with his situation in New York, he began looking for other career options and signed a deal to play with IK Start beginning in 2009.
"I gave New York a chance to make me some kind of offer, and they told me I had to wait until the end of the year. I had an offer on the table from a team in Europe, so it was a decision I made on my future," Freeman explained.
Freeman could have remained with New York until the end of the current MLS season and continued to earn a paycheque before heading off to Norway, but he wanted to play and was happy when he heard Toronto was interested in him.
"The Red Bulls thought because I already [signed with IK Start] that I wasn't committed to the club. The coach told me barring injuries that I probably wasn't going to play much because he didn't think I was 100 per cent committed," Freeman explained.
"For a player, that's tough to swallow — to come in to work every day and realize no matter what you do, you're not going get a chance to play. So for me it was a question of whether another team wanted me because I still wanted to play and I'm still dedicated to whatever team I'm on to win games."
Part of the trade agreement with the Red Bulls stipulates that Toronto, who gave up two picks in next year's supplemental draft to acquire Freeman, must give New York a second-round pick in the 2011 MLS draft if he re-signs with the Canadian team at any point in 2009.
But Freeman insists his long-term future is in Norway with IK Start, not with Toronto FC.
"They plan to use me mostly as an outside right back. The guy they have there playing that position is more of a centre back, so they definitely have plans for me to play."
Going full out for Toronto FC
He is, however, committed to giving everything he has to Toronto before he leaves, including helping the club make it to the post-season.
He trained for the first time with his new teammates last Friday and 24 hours later, he started for Toronto in a 1-1 tie at home against the Columbus Crew.
Freeman said he wants to repay the faith that coach John Carver showed in him and help Toronto, six points out of a playoff spot with six games left in the regular season, qualify for the post-season.
"John's a coach you want to play for. He threw me right into the starting lineup after only training with the team for a day. You can't really say much more about that.
"It's a huge honour and I just want to show him and everyone else that I deserved to be on the field and can contribute to the club," Freeman said.