Like many soccer fans right now, Hunter Freeman, who plays defense for the New York Cosmos, has World Cup fever.
For the next few weeks, when he’s not in practice or playing, he’ll be catching as many games as he can wherever there is a TV.
amNewYork spoke with Freeman this week about the Cup, what newbies to the sport should be looking for and what he thought about the U.S. coach's decision to leave the country's biggest soccer star off the national team.
Are you rooting for a particular team in the World Cup?
For someone who just loves the game, I just look forward to a lot of good match ups. There's a lot of match ups with history to them -- like the Italy/England game. These are teams that have played each other at past World Cups at big stages.
And, obviously, always looking forward to seeing how the U.S. does. The game here keeps progressing and getting better and better. This year we have a very tough group, and i think not much is expected of the U.S., but if they can get through that group then i think they're going to have a ton of confidence.
There's going to be a lot of good games, and even the games that maybe on paper people aren't excited about end up being the best games. At the end of the day, it's the World Cup. There's no higher stage than that. The players want to perform not only for themselves but for their nations.
What did you make of the U.S. coach's decision to leave U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan off the World Cup team?
I think it was a gutsy decision. It was one that i'm sure when he decided he knew that a lot of criticism was going to come his way. At the same time, the one thing with Jurgen [Klinsmann, the U.S. coach] is that he's not afraid to make the unpopular decision. At the end of the day, he has a thought and process about his team. There's a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that nobody knows of. They can be good things and bad things.
For me, I think Landon should be on the team. I think he is definitely one of the top 23 players in this country. Maybe it was a World Cup where he wasn't going to start. But, I think, to have someone like him come off your bench with his quality and experience is something you want.
Again, I'm not in the camp. I don't know. We don't see everything that goes on. I'm not going to totally criticize him for not taking him.
Here in the next few days and weeks ahead we'll see if his decision was the right one or the wrong one. If they advance out of the group and get some good victories, no one is going to question him about why Landon didn't go.
What would you tell someone who has never watched a World Cup game to look for?
You are watching games that have the best players in the world. You're going to see the best soccer you can possibly see, in all honesty. Even if it's not the soccer that interests you, i think just the melting pot of cultures coming together, to watch a game, and whether it be an Italian fan or an English fan, an American fan or a Brazilian fan, you definitely see everyone's pride in their roots. I think that's just a beautiful thing.
The Cosmos face off against the New York Red Bulls at Hofstra on Saturday, the first time the two local professional soccer teams have played a game against one another. Freeman described the game as “a new piece of history” in New York soccer.