It’s a funny thing being Hunter Freeman these days. He is as much his IK Start’s conduit to World Cup 2010 as he is their regular right back.
The former Colorado, New York and Toronto FC defender is well into his second season in the Norwegian top flight. For now, though, he must do without usual back-line partner Clarence Goodson, who is off with the US National Team in South Africa.
Goodson, a center back, should soon be the first Start player to feature in a World Cup since a young Erik Mykland made Norway’s team for the 1994 edition in America.
“The guys are always asking me if I have spoken to Clay [Goodson] and how things are going for him, so I am a bit of the middle man, I guess you could say,” Freeman told MLSsoccer.com from Norway. “But I know we all will be rooting him on once the tournament begins.
“Everyone within the team and club are super happy for Clay and wish him nothing but the best. It is of course a great accomplishment for him, and one that I think every player envies.”
Not only was Freeman proud as can be after Goodson was named to the World Cup squad, he hopes to draw a little international inspiration from him.
“For me personally, it is always great to see a teammate from your country make the World Cup squad,” said the 25-year old. “It shows me that if I have success here in Norway and with Start like he has, then I will hopefully have the opportunity one day to prove myself with the national team.”
For the time being, Freeman is busy getting comfortable in Norway. “Having been in the league now for a year I am more familiar with the players I play with and go up against,” he stated.
“As well, I know how my team wants to play and how the other teams want to play against us.”
Due to an ankle operation, the defender got a late start to the season, which he says has affected his early performances.
“If I am quite honest, I feel that this year has been a bit up-and-down for me so far because I am still recovering from serious ankle surgery in the offseason,” admitted Freeman. “I was able to start the first game of the season, but prior to that I had only played 45 minutes all preseason.
“My ankle continues to improve and get stronger and stronger, and I feel that in relation my play is improving. Personally, I am hoping for a really strong second half of the season now that I am almost back to 100 percent.”
It has been an up-and-down season for IK Start and the club sits mid-table through 13 games with a .500 record and a +1 goal differential. The form split is obvious: a respectable Jekyll at Sør Arena with 14 points, the club have turned Hyde by grabbing just four on the road.
Freeman has a few theories for this problem, but says it really boils down to their timid away mindset this term. “Obviously, playing on the road presents different atmosphere and obstacles compared to playing at home,” he begins.
“Here, we usually travel the day of the game. I do not know how much that might play into it, as we mostly charter a plane and the flights are 40 minutes to two hours at most usually.
“On the pitch, your tactics change a bit when playing away from home,” continued Freeman. “At home, we do very well to come out strong and apply a lot of pressure to the other team. On the road, our tactic is to lie a bit lower in the pitch and be compact, but often times this does not translate into the same energy and aggressiveness.”
“I think we need to be a bit more aggressive and have a higher energy level throughout the 90 minutes on the road. If we can do that, then I think the results will be more in our favor.”
Freeman and Start will play into Norway’s month-long World Cup schedule break by hosting Viking on Monday.
Greg Seltzer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.