Freeman challenging Kimura for right back spot

Defender Freeman played first minutes of the season Saturday in place of Kimura

Kosuke Kimura vs Chivas USA

Photo Credit: 
Bart Young / Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – All along the coaching staff new they'd eventually have tough lineup decisions to make once all the injured or document-waiting midfielders and forwards were available. And, it may turn out, that they could also be considering options at defense, as well.

Defender Hunter Freeman made his 2012 debut on Saturday against Chivas USA when he replaced right back Kosuke Kimura to start the second half. It was Freeman's first game with the Rapids since 2006.

“We wanted to have a little bit more solidness in the back,” coach Oscar Pareja said of the move after the game. “Kosuke was bringing energy going forward, but I wanted to bring in Hunter to give (the defense) a little more stability.”

OPTA Chalkboard: How Freeman helped lock it down

Stats compiled by OPTA might support Pareja's thinking. According to Opta, Kimura was involved in 68 actions, compared to 39 for Freeman. Of Freeman's actions, 77% took place in his defensive half. Kimura had the same number of actions on each side of midfield.

“Hopefully I’ve given [the coaching staff] something to think about,” Freeman told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “I felt good.”

When healthy, Kimura has been a fixture at right back for the past fours seasons. Last year he started all 34 regular season games and was only off the field for 64 minutes combined. He broke his foot in a playoff match against Sporting KC but recovered in time for the start of preseason.

Freeman was selected by the Rapids in the 2011 MLS Re-Entry Draft from the Houston Dynamo. He was originally drafted by the Rapids with the 7th overall pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, and appeared in 47 matches his first two seasons before being traded to New York. He also played for Toronto and IK Start in Norway before returning to MLS last year.

Both players are 27 years-old, with Kimura having played in 113 MLS games and Freeman in 108.