By the end of 2012, Hunter Freeman thought his future would be with the New England Revolution. Early discussions with the team after they acquired his rights through the re-entry draft seemed streamlined towards that destination.
Now, he finds himself in the second division of the American soccer pyramid, manning a yet to be determined back line for the New York Cosmos; a team that hopes to debut in the NASL Fall Championship come this August.
Some would view this as a step down for the life-long MLS starter. Not so, says Freeman.
Not only is he returning to the city he loves, but he will be compensated – at an MLS level – to do so.
“(The Cosmos offer) was right on par, maybe even a little bit better (than New England),” Freeman tells EoS. “The fact they can compete with that as well as me being able to get close to my family, my wife’s family and back in the area, it made a lot of sense for me.”
Freeman, 28, featured as a starter for the New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Houston Dynamo and the Colorado Rapids throughout his MLS career. As such, he earned a respectable six figure salary for his services. With his family expecting their second child this April, he was not only looking for the right fit with his next club but the right price for his services.
New England fit both bills, until their dealings soured.
“My agent spoke to (the Revolution) about what I was looking for salary wise even before the re-entry draft,” Freeman said, “but when the final negotiations began, it was quite different than our expectations.
“We negotiated a little bit and basically, we received what they said was their final and best offer and I didn’t think it was fair. I didn’t feel comfortable with it when it was offered to me and I basically said that I would see what else was out there for me and they understood.”
Other offers began to come in from interested parties within the league, but many at the time were evaluating their draft choices to see if they could sign younger options at a cost savings before looking towards the higher priced MLS veteran. Antsy to find a secure home, Freeman reached out to the Revolution once more.
“After the second week of preseason, I called my agent and said ‘hey look, I still don’t feel the offer from New England is fair but none of these other MLS teams that have interest are acting on it yet.’ Let’s get back to New England and tell them we are ready to sign.
“When I went to sign the deal,” he revealed, “they said they didn’t want me anymore.”
That is when a familiar voice reached out to Freeman with an enticing offer.
“Literally the day after I found out they weren’t going to sign me, the Cosmos called,” he said. “Alecko (Eskandarian) and I have known each other going back to playing together at UVA. He had been on the job for three days and he called me to see what my situation was.
“He said ‘look, I know we have a lot of interest in you and we want to bring you in the office and tell you more about the team and the overall project and aspirations for the Cosmos.’
“Within a day, I had an offer from the team.”
The offer exceeded Freeman’s expectations and afforded him a chance to return to New York where he could reunite with old friends and be closer to his wife’s family during this special time in their lives.
“I was really impressed not only with the professionalism of the club already but the vision they have.” Though he readily admits this is a risky move on the periphery, the club’s vision and their willingness to meet his market expectations quickly won him over. “I think it shows the aspirations of the club and what they want to do,” he says. “It shows you they are serious. At the same time, they are not splashing money to splash money. They know they are in a business.
“I guess you can say there is a little bit of risk,” he admitted. “People can say a lot of things and not act on them but the impression I got was they have every impression to act on them.
“It was a matter of good timing,” he said. “And it’s a good fit.”