Bryn Mawr native Matthew Freese has decided to forgo his final two years of college soccer eligibility at Harvard to turn pro with his hometown team.
The Philadelphia Union announced the signing of the 20-year-old goalkeeper to a homegrown contract on Friday.
“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,” Ernst Tanner, Union Sporting Director, said in a news release. “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. 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.”
The former Penn Fusion Academy and Episcopal Academy goalkeeper split time in his senior year of high school playing prep soccer in Newtown Square and the Development Academy with the Union. He received a call-up to the United States U19 during his senior year and had an opportunity to train with Manchester United over spring break in his junior year of high school.
Freese joined a Harvard men’s soccer program in 2017 that was still reeling from the “sexist scouting report” scandal. He made two starts as a freshman and 14 starts in 2018 for a team that has won only five games since forfeiting their final two games of the 2016 season.
During breaks and over the summer, Freese returned to train with the Philadelphia Union and the Bethlehem Steel.
He becomes the first homegrown goalkeeper in Philadelphia Union history though John McCarthy, who is out of contract with the team, grew up in Philadelphia and played at La Salle University (he signed after spending a season with Rochester Rhinos in USL).
Freese gives the Union two goalkeepers on the 2019 roster with Andre Blake as the starter. Tomas Romero and Kris Shakes are both graduating high school in 2019 so the team has the option of signing another homegrown keeper. Romero is committed to Georgetown for the fall, Shakes to Penn State.
There is also the possibility that McCarthy, who was among the highest paid backup keepers in the league last season with $104,000 in total compensation and is seeking more playing time, could return.