U.S. central defender Mandy Freeman is a fast and physical player, and one of the leaders of the U.S. U-17 Women’s World Cup Team. As she and her teammates prepare to open the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup against France on Sept. 22 in Lankaran, Azerbaijan, ussoccer.com sat down with the Royal Palm Beach, Fla., product to ask her 11 questions, ranging from her thoughts on Sunday morning cartoons, to a meaningful message she wears on her wrist and also who is eating all the darn cookies?
ussoccer.com: Welcome to Azerbaijan! How have you found the country so far and what’s the team’s mood ahead of the World Cup opener?
Mandy Freeman: “We haven’t seen much of the country yet, just the hotel and the training fields. On the way to training, Lankaran seems like small town living. It’s a bit quiet and slow here. It’s not as developed as some of the bigger cities we’ve been to, but it looks charming. We’re all excited to get to the first game. We’ve been working hard for a few years for this moment and now we’re all here as one solidified group and we can’t wait to show that we can put it all together in a World Cup match.”
ussoccer.com: How do you spend your free time on the road?
MF: “Mostly listening to music and occasionally doing homework. Basically, I do a lot of hanging out with Jane Campbell, Summer Green and Amber Munerlyn. Our personalities seem to be the same and we all have been known to just randomly get up and start dancing. I think we all make each other laugh.”
ussoccer.com: Is it true that you taught Summer Green how to dance or is it vice-versa?
MF: “In the beginning, I was teaching her, but now I’d say we’ve each taught each other some moves. Summer can definitely bring it. The student has become the teacher.”
ussoccer.com: You wear a wristband during games with the number 23 on it. Can you tell us the story behind that?
MF: “I wear my wrist band in memory of one of my close friends and teammates, Melissa Bergstein, who unfortunately died in a car accident in February of 2011. That was her number and I know that she is watching over me and always wanted the best for me. She was like a big sister to me and when I play, I always remember to play for her.”
ussoccer.com: Can you talk about your partnership with Maddie Bauer in the middle of the U.S. defense?
MF: “We work well together. We have great chemistry on and off the field, we talk to each other and we both take pride in leading the defense. She’s more of the communicator in the back and I’m more of the physical presence. I think it’s a good combination, but we have so many good players and good people around us that work well together that it’s always fun to compete with these girls.”
ussoccer.com: We hear you are a fan of Sunday morning cartoons?
MF: “SpongeBob is one of my favorites. Fairlyodd Parents is another one that I like, but pretty much anything on Nickelodeon. I’m an early riser, so on Sundays I wake up around six or 6:30 a.m., I walk my dog Paco, great some breakfast, usually a bowl of cereal and then I sit down and watch some cartoons. Sunday is my chill and relax day. Friday and Saturdays are usually my hardest days if I am training or playing a game so I need Sunday to re-energize and cartoons and a bowl of cereal is a great way to do that.”
ussoccer.com: What is the most bizarre food you’ve ever eaten?
MF: “Alligator tongue. My sister’s teammates told me it was chicken so I tried it and I actually kind of liked it, but then I kind of got disgusted when they told me it was alligator tongue. I don’t think I would willingly eat it again now that I know what it is. Maybe on a dare.”
ussoccer.com: What are you most looking forward to about your World Cup experience?
MF: “I think just going out there and playing my heart out and leaving it all on the field. I am also looking forward to our whole team being on the field and listening to our national anthem and knowing that we are representing our country at the highest level for our age group. That is going be a big thrill.”
ussoccer.com: You have an odd ambition, especially for a modern day teenager. You say you’d like to work on a farm?
MF: “I would really like to milk a cow or a goat one day. I don’t even know why. It just seems like something that’s not that easy to do, but at the same time pretty fun. The generation of kids that I know have probably never been to a farm and there’s something gratifying about doing everything yourself and growing and producing your own food.”
ussoccer.com: How is it possible that you brought three full packages of Oreo cookies to Cyprus for the team’s pre-tournament training camp and they were gone in four days?
MF: “Hungry teammates and too much free time! One of our things on this team is that one of us always brings a package of Oreos, sometimes two, sometimes three and maybe even four packs because they will be gone within a week. Summer Green is the biggest culprit. That girl can eat some cookies.”
ussoccer.com: U.S. goalkeeper Jane Campbell says she always mixes up you and Maddie Bauer’s names when she’s yelling out instructions during games. It’s understandable – Maddie and Mandy – but do you always know who she is actually talking to?
MF: “Not all the time. We usually both just do what she says! Sometimes she admits she made a mistake and gives us a little more information, but most of the time we can sort it ourselves. At some point, she’ll figure it out.”