Friday morning, 20-year-old goalkeeper Matthew Freese of Wayne, PA inked a professional contract with Philadelphia Union becoming the 10th Homegrown Player in franchise history.
Make it a lucky seven for Philadelphia. The addition of Matthew Freese – joining the Union after a brief two-year stint in the Ivy League with Harvard University – makes the active number of Homegrown Players seven for the Union.
From the first-ever Union game at the Linc ➡️Union Homegrown signing. To @Matty_Ice49, the club means everything. Welcome, Matt!#DOOP | #Philly pic.twitter.com/lL5sGpgkdl
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) December 21, 2018
At first glance, Freese’s height is striking. At just 20 years old, he clocks in at 6’4”/295lbs. Who else is 6’4” and wears keeper mitts? Andre Blake of course. Blake will surely be a crucial mentor for the young Freese as he joins the club.
“I saw Matt in person for the first time when he played for Harvard against Penn, and he made a fantastic impression to me, one that has only grown with further study,” said Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner.
But Freese made impacts long before his time at Harvard. He attended Episcopal Academy while playing for Union youth teams. He quickly impressed with his skills and potential within the Academy ranks. Freese even attracted European attention when Manchester United offered him a trial and later a contract to be a goalkeeping apprentice, a several year offer. However, Freese chose Harvard.
Freese’s father and two brothers also chose Harvard at one point or another. It turns out Freese ended up getting the best of both worlds: following the family legacy to Harvard and securing a professional soccer team – one that he grew up with.
Freese earned Second-Team All-Ivy League honors following the 2018 season and left Harvard with 77 saves over a 16-game career. His efforts in Cambridge helped secure a youth international call-up in February of 2017. The previous year, Freese suited up for the Union’s U17/U18 club and earned six starts there.
“It is a tremendous achievement for Matt to join our First Team, and of course, as a Homegrown Player, it is for sure an extra special moment for his family,” said Tanner. “We have observed immense progress throughout his time in our Academy, with Steel FC, and for Harvard, and we couldn’t be prouder to see him take this next step.”
That next step is to adapt and learn from the best. Of course, since Freese is a keeper, he’ll have to sit tight and learn a bit from Blake, arguably the best goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. Which is a pretty solid deal.
For now, Matt Freese joins Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Brenden Aaronson, Matt Real, Anthony Fontana, and Derrick Jones as the seventh Homegrown player on the roster. For a youngster who used to attend Union matches as a fan, Friday was very special.
I’m coming home! So excited to announce that I’ve signed a homegrown contract with the @philaunion! Since I can remember, playing professional soccer has always been my dream. I’m so excited to now fulfill that dream and play for the best city in the world! Hard work starts now! pic.twitter.com/pf64iNJMbu
— Matt Freese (@Matty_Ice49) December 21, 2018
“It obviously means everything to me that I’m starting my career here with the people that raised me and turned me into the person and the soccer player that I am,” said Freese. “I was involved in the first Union Juniors training session, literally when the Union were first created. Just the progression through that and the academy and with local clubs makes everything more meaningful and more special.”
As the Union continue to bolster their Academy and its resources, its reputation as one of the better youth development models in MLS grows.
“I’m definitely excited with the deal that I have at the Union, my development path that they’ve lined up here,” Freese said. “It’s one of the teams that’s the most focused on youth development in MLS, which is a great situation.”
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Bethlehem Steel FC