The NASL's New York Cosmos, a franchise reborn 30 years after its last competitive match, continued to create intrigue in American soccer circles after signing another MLS alum on Tuesday, Hunter Freeman.
"People are excited and even people I didn't even know that I run into, they know what the Cosmos are and know what they stand for," Freeman told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. "That just speaks volumes for the history of the club.
"People still know so much about a team and have so much interest about a team that hasn't played in almost 30 years. That's pretty amazing."
Freeman's move may have come out of the blue for many MLS fans, but Freeman learned of interest from the Cosmos back in December, around the same time that he was left unprotected by the Colorado Rapids and picked up in the Re-Entry Draft by the New England Revolution.
At that time, Freeman was focused on remaining in MLS. An initial contract proposal from the Revolution didn't fit what Freeman was looking for, and with a wife, a one-year-old child and another on the way, Freeman decided to test the open marketplace in the hope that another MLS team might step up to the plate.
But as MLS preseason kicked off, Freeman didn't like the feeling of being on the outside looking in during the "waiting game." And so eager to get back in the mix with a club, he says he approached his agent and asked to get a deal done with the Revs in the second week of preseason.
"I was always excited about the prospect of going to New England," Freeman said. "Basically, we spoke to New England and New England said, 'We're no longer interested,' and that the offer that was there is not there and they felt comfortable with what [players] they had at the time. And so it was a bit of a surprise."
A Revolution spokesperson confirmed that the offer was in fact rescinded based on the club's acquisition of defenders while Freeman was contemplating their original offer.
However, a day after the Revolution door was closed, the Cosmos approached Freeman through his former teammate at the University of Virginia, Alecko Eskandarian, the former MLS Cup MVP who is the new assistant coach at the Cosmos. Eskandarian filled him in on the Cosmos' plans and an offer was presented to Freeman the next day.
After a quick visit to the Cosmos offices in SoHo, the former MLS defender was sold.
"Their ambition and the project as a whole is huge," Freeman said. "And to finally see some of the behind-the-scenes parts that I didn't know about on the surface really got me intrigued and excited. To be part of that, hopefully for the long haul, is really exciting for me."
The Cosmos open their NASL participation in the Fall season on August 3 against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and club officials say they are targeting organized preseason training around May.
So Freeman can focus on relocation for now — likely on Long Island, near the Cosmos' training base — to a New York metropolitan area he called home when he played for the Red Bulls. His wife is also from New Jersey and between her family and his own friends in the area, he says the move "made sense for me from all aspects of my life."
"Timing had a lot to do with it," Freeman said. "And also having known Gio [Savarese, Cosmos head coach] from before and Alecko and I was already comfortable with these guys. I think all those little things add up and really made the whole deal make sense."