Matt Freese was in goal for New York City FC‘s two most recent games, but it’s not clear if the 25-year-old has become the team’s new starter.
The goalkeeper was signed last winter, and was meant to compete for the starting role with Luis Barraza, the longtime backup to former NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson. Barraza became the club’s de facto starter, but he was never named the clear-cut No 1. Now Freese, who stands at 6-foot-3 inches tall, is seeing more time in goal.
Barraza, on the other hand, often looks unsure of himself on the field. He was given plenty of chances to make the starting role his, but his stats are some of the lowest in the league, as he has struggled with his consistency throughout the season.
Here’s why it’s time for Nick Cushing to give Freese a run of games and become the starting goalkeeper for New York City for the rest of the season.
1. Shot-stopping skills
Freese played for Philadelphia Union for several years before his time in New York. Although Freese served as the backup to one of the best MLS goalkeepers in Andre Blake, he only was called upon sporadically in 2021, and didn’t play in an MLS league game in 2022.
Freese has made seven appearances for the NYCFC first team in all competitions, and proved himself to be a solid shot-stopper. In his four MLS starts this season, Freese has a save rate of 82.4%. That puts Freese in good company, and ahead of some of the best goalkeepers in the league, including Cincinnati’s Roman Celentano and Nashville’s Joe Willis.
Freese conceded five goals in MLS this season, two of which were penalties. His resulting goals against average (GAA) of 1.25, but that drops to 0.75 if you only count goals from open play. By comparison Đorđe Petrović had a GAA of 1.23 in 22 games for the New England Revolution, and a GAA of 1.09 from open play.
In his time in Philadelphia, Freese had an average save rate of 77.8%. Freese is a goalkeeper who can consistently perform well when needed.
Freese has started seven games this season in all competitions. In these few starts, Freese has been reliable and looked solid.
Two of those starts came against league-leading FC Cincinnati. Freese made six saves in those two games, and let in four goals — one of which was a penalty.
Freese then had one of his best starts in goal against the Portland Timbers, as he made six saves despite conceding a wonder strike from Evander.
Towards the end of the summer, Freese started in NYCFC’s last two Leagues Cup games against Toronto FC and New Jersey Red Bulls. In that stretch, he earned his first clean sheet of the season and made four saves.
His most recent starts came against CF Montréal and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Freese logged his second clean sheet against Montréal and made a total of four saves in the two games. These were some of his most positive performances for NYCFC this season.
3. Positive distribution
It is well known to every New York City fan that the team likes to play the ball out from the back, starting with the goalkeeper. Barraza likes to pass the ball short more than Freese, as his rate of passes launched is a low 20.3.
Freese launches the ball further, especially on goal kicks. His average goal kick launches up to 44.9 yards up the pitch. This is higher than Barraza’s average of 37.3 yards from his launched goal kicks.
Freese likes to play a long ball to a NYCFC forward rather than playing it slowly out of the back.
The numbers don’t lie: Freese has the stats to be New York City’s starting goalkeeper. He has proved himself when called upon and is a consistent goalkeeper. It is ultimately up to Cushing to decide if Freese is ready to take the starting spot in goal.