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Instant reaction: Matt Freese plays like he has something to prove

The 25-year-old goalkeeper is on his way to establishing himself as one of the best in MLS.

© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC goalkeeper Matt Freese put in a shift tonight.

The matchup between NYCFC and Inter Miami was supposed to be a contest between two defenses weakened by injuries. The underachieving New York City attack had to like their chances against a Miami backline that featured two central defenders who totaled just 16 minutes of MLS playing time between them. As for Miami, their front line was depleted, but it still had enough firepower to trouble any team in the league.

Instead, it was a game decided by the sharp goalkeeping of Freese. He made five saves, limiting Miami to just one goal despite their xG of 2.48. He helped NYCFC earn a point on the road, and his 8.1 FotMob rating was enough to earn Player of the Match honors.

More than that, his goalkeeping provided the team's fans something to rally behind. With so much of this squad looking off right now – James Sands is giving away cheap balls in the midfield, Santíago Rodríguez spends long passages waiting for the ball behind Keaton Parks, Mounsef Bakrar gets into good spots but just can't find the goal – it's reassuring to watch somebody play up to their ability.

He was easily the most inspiring player on the field.

True, Freese has yet to log a clean sheet this year. But his five saves allowed NYCFC to take a point on the road that they maybe didn't fully deserve, and he made them against a deep Miami that remains dangerous even when Lionel Messi isn't in the lineup. His goalkeeping against Miami echoes his performance last week, when his five saves against league-leading FC Cincinnati kept New York City in the game despite fielding an attack that simply couldn't get the job done in front of goal.

© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Freese plays like he has something to prove. He joined New York City in 2023 to become a regular starter, which he accomplished late last year. Now the 25-year-old is operating like he wants to establish himself as one of the league's better young goalkeepers.

By the look of things, he's on his way.