Newcomer makes early impact for Trojans

Chris Freeman didn't want to play soccer this year at Northwest Cabarrus.

Having moved to Concord from the Chicago suburbs during the summer, the sophomore didn't feel as though he fit in.

"It's very different here," said Freeman. "I'm just trying to get used to it."

But having played soccer since he was 4, he couldn't stay away from the field for long.

"I just love the game too much," said Freeman.

Northwest Cabarrus coach Harald von Klahr said his team is fortunate to have the 15-year-old join the team. He had scored a team-high 10 goals to lead Northwest to a 5-1 season start and recorded two assists.

"He's very skillful, very quick with the ball," said von Klahr. "He's just so creative. He give us a lot of chances with his skills."

Von Klahr added that one of Freeman's strengths is his unselfishness, as he's constantly looking to get the ball to open teammates.

"He makes the guys playing with him a lot better," said von Klahr.

Freeman, who plays both attacking midfielder and forward, is skilled with the ball at his feet, having the ability to dribble through defenders and draw a lot of attention. That allows his teammates to shake free.

Von Klahr said it's not often that a sophomore is able to contribute as much to a soccer team, both physically and mentally, going against more mature players.

Freeman admitted he wasn't surprised he made the Trojans varsity team after playing at that level for his Neuqua Valley High team last year. He counteracts that with his speed and a good attitude.

"He's a got a real good head on his shoulders," said von Klahr. "He's got a real bright future."

It was that same attitude that allowed Freeman to easily fit in with his new team.

"He works hard and doesn't expect to be treated any differently," said von Klahr.

The Trojans have a good mix of experienced and young players, featuring nine seniors but also eight underclassmen. With Freeman coming on board, the team has seemed to click.

Heading into their Sept. 20 game against Jay M. Robinson, the Trojans started their South Piedmont Conference season 3-0, with wins against A.L. Brown, Mount Pleasant and Concord.

Junior forward Armando Gutierrez, a strong, speedy goal shooter, made key contributions for the Trojans, scoring six goals and adding four assists through the team's first five games.

Kevin Esparza, a junior, also has helped Northwest, doing the "dirty work" in the midfield and getting the offense started. Senior center back Nick Kay has led the team defensively.

Although the Trojans have gone through growing pains, von Klahr said - especially in a 3-0 loss to Mooresville last month - he hopes his players can build on their early-season momentum.

For his team to compete for a title in the competitive SPC, he said, his players will have to communicate better on the field, especially in the back, and keep it simple on offense.

"If we can be more consistent finishing and have that composure in front of the goal, that'll help out a lot," said von Klahr.

Regardless of how the rest of the year goes, Freeman said, he's glad he changed his mind about playing soccer this season.

"It's given me a couple of guys I can talk to in school," said Freeman, adding that being on a team is helping him fit better into life in Cabarrus County.

The 5-8, 135-pounder wants to continue helping his team as much as possible. He's confident he'll be able to do so if he has the ball at his feet.

"If they try to give me the ball as much as possible, I'll make sure I make the plays," said Freeman.