Skip to content

Ice, Ice Baby: Why Matt Freese is an elite goalkeeper

We look at the numbers behind Matt Freese's rise to the top of MLS goalkeepers, and break down his biggest saves of the season.

The Iceman is ice cold in his game prep | Courtesy

Matt Freese was not New York City FC’s first pick for starting goalkeeper after Sean Johnson left the team to join Toronto FC. Instead, that spot initially belonged to Luis Barraza, who took the No 1 jersey at the start of the 2023 season. But Freese improved during the course of the year, and he earned the starting role by the end of that summer. Since the 2-0 win over CF Montréal on August 30, 2023, the Iceman has started every game for NYCFC, and now Barraza serves as the backup.

Freese was good in goal last year, and was an important factor in the team's strong run of form at the end of the season. But his performances this season can only be described as exceptional. The 25-year-old is a pivotal figure in New York City’s recent success, consistently making crucial saves to maintain leads or keep the game within reach for NYCFC. But what is it about Freese that sets him apart as a top-tier goalkeeper?

Elite shot-stopper

Freese stands at 6-foot-3, which isn’t the tallest among goalkeepers in MLS. Despite this, Freese is excellent at making himself big to save tough shots, especially in one-on-one situations with opposing players. He has a save percentage of 78.4 per FBRef, which is the fourth-highest in the MLS as of the publication of this article. That places him above the likes of Steve Clark, Kristin Kahlina, Joe Willis, and Stefan Frei.

Name Club Save Percentage Saves Goals Against per 90 Clean Sheets
Roman Celentano FC Cincinnati 82.1 31 0.83 5
Brad Stuver Austin 80.5 67 1.25 5
Joe Willis Nashville 79.5 31 0.89 4
Matt Freese NYCFC 78.4 57 1.07 3
Steve Clark Houston Dynamo 77.8 41 1.02 3
Stefan Frei Seattle Sounders 75.6 33 1.06 3
Patrick Schulte Columbus Crew 75.6 30 0.92 4
Brad Guzan Atlanta United 75.4 40 1.17 3
Zac MacMath Real Salt Lake 75.4 47 1.25 3
John McCarthy LA Galaxy 74.7 57 1.53 2
Drake Callender Inter Miami 74.6 47 1.25 4
Kristijan Kahlina Charlotte FC 74.6 47 1 7

Freese has shown his ability to make reflex saves countless times this season. In the 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Matchday 5, Freese parried away efforts from Aaron Boupendza, Corey Baird, and Luciano Acosta, to keep the game close. New York City had a rocky start to the season, with just one win in their first five games, but Freese was establishing himself to be among the league's best shot-stoppers despite the team's results.

Freese’s biggest test came against Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami on March 30. Luis Suárez found a way to score early in that game, but Freese made five important saves to prevent the striker from adding more goals.

In the 22nd minute, the Urugyan found himself in behind with plenty of time and space to shoot, but Freese came off his line and made himself big to force Suárez into a rushed shot. Later on in the game, Suárez blasted an attempt from the edge of the box that was headed toward Freese’s far post, but the Iceman extended himself outward to get a hand on it and save the shot.

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Sign In