Homegrown forward Tyler Freeman became the second-youngest player in club history when he officially signed for the club on Tuesday. The 15-year-old has spent more than three years in the Sporting KC Academy, having grown up in Shawnee, Kansas, as a lifelong fan of the team. In the newest edition of "Anything But," SportingKC.com chatted with Freeman about life off the field.
Having trained with Sporting KC throughout the summer, you got to know most of the first team players pretty well. Who do you look up to the most?
Felipe Gutierrez, because he’s so good technically and you can learn a lot from him just by watching how he plays. Whether it’s his positioning or his movement, he’s always doing the right thing. As far as leaders off the field, Roger Espinoza is always positive. He knows what he wants from his teammates and he’s demanding, but he really keeps the team in check.
A lot of people who know you well, including Academy Director Jon Parry, say that you never get rattled. You’re never nervous. Is that simply your nature, or do you make a conscious effort to try and stay poised?
It’s just in my personality, really. At the end of the day, this is just soccer. There are other things to life. At the same time, I want to give 100 percent every time I step on the field.
When you were 12 years old in 2015, you scored a goal for the Sporting KC U-12s that earned coverage from ESPN. Is that the best goal you’ve ever scored?
That was a pretty good goal, to be honest. I’ve probably scored more important goals since then—and maybe some better ones. It’s a tough call, but I guess I’ll stick with that one as my best ever.
Have you played FIFA 19 yet?
I have not. I actually haven’t played FIFA in a while. I’m not really a video game guy. I’ll get on Fortnite and play that with my friends sometimes, but other than that, I’d rather play soccer or watch the real thing. Not really a gaming guy.
Besides Sporting KC, which professional sports teams do you support?
I’ll watch the Chiefs and Royals when I can, but my favorite team other than Sporting KC is Real Madrid, the Champions League winners. There are a lot of players I look up to on that team—Isco, Luka Modric, players like that. For me it’s not so much as watching the team as it is watching the players and learning from them.
Which players overseas do you like to watch the most?
I’d have to say Isco and Neymar. I’ve always been a winger or an attacker. Those two are obviously very good at their positions, so you can learn a whole lot just by watching them for 90 minutes.
As a U.S. youth international, you’ve traveled abroad multiple times for tournaments. What is your favorite place you have visited?
The coolest place was Italy, for sure. I went back in April for the Tournament of Nations with the U-16s. It was so surreal and so crazy. We got to play against Italy the first day, and with all the fans that came out, it felt like we were playing with the pros in a packed stadium. That Italy trip was just so great, and the food—I had a lot of pasta, bread, gelato…so nice.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Kansas City?
My favorite place to eat is probably Zaxby’s. I get the Wings & Things every time. You get the wings, chicken tenders, fries and Texas toast.
What have you been watching on TV recently?
I’ve spent a lot of time on Netflix. The Office is obviously a classic, but I’m also watching a show called Dynasty. That’s a show I’ve been hooked on for awhile.
What are your overall music tastes, and who are your favorite artists?
It really depends on my mood. I like listening to some chill alternative when the time is right, but before a game it has to be some hip hop or rap. My top three rappers would be Lil Baby, 21 Savage and Gunna. Seeing them live would be really cool.
You made a joke during your introductory press conference that Gianluca Busio will have to start driving you to training now. As a 15-year-old, have you started drivers’ education yet?
Not yet. I haven’t practiced driving all that much. Every now and then I practice a little bit with my mom, just going around town on simple trips. But there really isn’t much to my driving game right now.
Your sister Haley plays college soccer at Central Missouri University and won a national championship as a freshman last fall. How has she helped you through this whole process and in your development as a player?
She was the one who got me into soccer when I was little. We’ve always had a little sibling rivalry of who’s better at soccer. We’ve grown up playing against each other since we were tiny, just competing in the back yard. She’s pushed me a lot as a player, and I’m sure I’ve helped her some as well. In our offseason we still train together, and she’s really helped me better myself in that way. My parents have done the same, for sure, just with all of their support they’ve given me.
If you had $10 million in your pocket, what is the first thing you’d spend money on?
Man, that’s a tough one. I guess I’d get a lot of Zaxby’s!