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Getting To Know Matt Freese, NYCFC’s New Goalkeeper (And One Time Rival)

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It was December 5, 2021, the MLS Eastern Conference Finals,  a memorable date in MLS history for both the New York City Football Club and the Philadelphia Union. Only one would move on to face Portland in the MLS Cup Finals. NYCFC, without Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos due to yellow card suspension was facing off on the road against a Union squad that was crushed by Covid protocols and missing 11 players, including starting goalkeeper Andre Blake. Enter young backup Matt Freese, a 23 year old thrust into a position to play the biggest game of his life. Freese, who grew up just 30 minutes from Subaru Park in Wayne. PA, put up a fight but lost 2-1 on a late goal in the 88th minute by Talles Magno. I remember being one of the only ones dumb/brave enough to be in Philly territory, freezing cold, covering a NY team. Fast forward just over a year, and Freese is now a member of the very team that defeated him, after NYCFC made a trade with the Union for the 6’3″ goalkeeper.

Dec 5, 2021; Chester, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Matt Freese (1) kicks the ball against New York City FC during the first half of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2021 MLS Playoffs at Subaru Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

I got the chance to speak with Matt for the first time last week.  On playing with a new team, he said “It’s going really well honestly. It has been an adjustment, but a quick adjustment. On the field is a hugely different style of play and it’s been a lot of work to make sure I’m adjusting as quickly as possible. Nick [Cushing] (Head Coach) and some of the experienced guys have been really helpful as well.” In our conversations, we talked about the training process, schedule, and the work that goes in to compete at the MLS level. His daily schedule, like most athletes, is a rigid & challenging one. Arriving at the training facility at around 8am, his morning includes mobility training, a small workout, watching game & training footage and THEN getting on the pitch for actual practice, followed by another workout. Finally he heads home or to a coffee shop to read, be it science fiction, news & current events, or the works of Malcolm Gladwell, citing him as one of his favorites. Gladwell’s book Outliers, Freese admitted, was a big inspiration for him. 

Who knows what the future holds for the 24 year old. While still a backup, this time to Luis Barraza (a longtime backup himself), anything can happen in a long season. In a unique twist,  who was Freese’s first roommate when he came to New York? Defender Maxime Chanot, whose shot in the Eastern Conference Finals lead to a rebound and the game tying goal at the 65th minute, something Chanot, despite being team captain, still brings up to Freese on occasion. But now, with the past firmly in the past,  the former rivals are now teammates. Their joint goal, another MLS Cup. 

About the author – Scott Churchson has been an actor in every way for the past 13 years, from BG to stand in to stunts and principal, a sports writer for the past 4 and is one of the people that created Stream Punk Entertainment. He’s married to a veterinarian, has a cat with three working legs and is just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.

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