Toronto FC picked Lipscomb University winger Tyrese Spicer first overall Tuesday in the MLS SuperDraft.

The 23-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago was a United Soccer Coaches first-team all-American, Atlantic Sun ConferencePlayer of the Year and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy this year.

Spicer led the ASUN with 14 goals and added three assists for a conference-leading 31 points. He had 29 goals and 18 assists in 57 career appearances for Lipscomb, which is based in Nashville.

“Tyrese possesses a unique combination of technical and physical qualities that align with our player profile and tactical blueprint,” Toronto GM Jason Hernandez said in a statement. “He also has a resilient mindset and a drive to improve, which makes him a great fit for TFC.”

Spicer scored in 10 consecutive matches to open the 2023 season and finished the regular season as the ASUN leader in goals, points, shots on goal, goals per game, points per game and game-winning goals, and led the NCAA in goals per game.

Spicer offers Toronto versatility in that he can play on both wings and up front. He also can play wingback.

He believes his time is now.

“I would like to come into the first team,” he said from the family home in Trincity, Trinidad. “I think I'm good enough to have an impact on it. I know the transition from NCAA level to MLS level is going to be a jump. And I'm going to have to take a few weeks to adjust to the transition and the fast pace and the high IQ of these players.

“But I trust myself. I'm confident always in myself. I can feed off of these pros and they can guide me and take me under their wing.”

Some had wondered whether TFC might stay local and pick Canadian forward Kimani Stewart-Baynes. The Toronto native, who turns 19 on Jan. 17, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after scoring three goals and adding seven assists in 14 matches for the University of Maryland.

But Toronto opted for the six-foot-one 153-pound Spicer, with Maple Leafs captain John Tavares announcing the pick.

Colorado, which finished second-last in the league, was active in the draft taking Duke midfielder Wayne Frederick second overall and Stewart-Baynes fourth. The Rapids, now led by former TFC coach Chris Armas, also swung a deal to get University of Washington centre back Nate Jones who went fifth overall to Austin FC.

Colorado traded the 12th and 14th overall picks to the New York Red Bulls and Charlotte, respectively.

FC Dallas traded up to pick third and take Oregon State forward Logan Farrington, who like Spicer had signed a contract with the league before the draft.

Spicer's Lipscomb teammate Malachi Jones, a forward, was taken eighth overall by New York City FC.

CF Montreal took UCLA defender Grayson Doody with the 10th pick. The five-foot-10 native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., appeared in 67 games for the Bruins with 61 starts.

A former surfing aficionado, Doody played for the Los Angeles Galaxy academy team as a freshman before focusing on his high school team.

The Whitecaps traded their first-round pick (16th overall) to Real Salt Lake in a February deal to acquire the rights to forward Sergio Cordova. Vancouver, which also gave RSL up to US$300,000 in general allocation money, subsequently transferred the Venezuelan to Turkey's Alanyaspor in September after 19 league appearances.

The league has widened the talent pool this year, opening the door to sophomores and juniors with close to 400 players eligible in the three-round draft.

Not everyone liked what they saw. New England traded its first- (20th) and third-round (78th) selections to Minnesota United for US$100,000 in general allocation money. The Revolution had already traded its second-round selection to D.C. United as part of the deal to acquire Ian Harkes.

Minnesota used the 20th overall pick to take Canadian forward Marcus Caldeira from West Virginia. The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., tied Japan winger Yutaro Tsukada for the Mountaineers' team lead with 12 goals and was named a second-team All American by the United Soccer Coaches.

Caldeira started the season on a roll, scoring seven goals in the first six games. In October, he scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win over No. 1 Marshall, which had conceded just five goals in its previous 12 matches.

Caldeira played for Toronto-area academy Sigma FC until he was 16, when he got a development contract with Forge FC.

Tsukada went 25th to Orlando City. A third West Virginia player, goalkeeper Jackson Lee, went 28th to Los Angeles FC whose starting 'keeper is Canadian Maxime Crepeau.

Stewart-Baynes and Virginia freshman forward Stephen Annor (pronounced uh-nore) both signed Generation Adidas deals with the league, making them even more attractive given their contracts will not count against the salary cap of the team they go to.

Ghana's Annor, who led Virginia with 10 goals this season, went 26th to the Houston Dynamo.

Stewart-Baynes, who spent the 2022 season with Vaughan Azzurri's under-19 team, signed a developmental contact with the CPL's Halifax Wanderers in March. League rules allow clubs to sign up to four such contracts with Canadian under-18 players, who can appear in up to six matches in a season.

Halifax coach Patrice Gheiser pointed to Stewart-Baynes' “electric pace.”

“We call him 'Iceman' because his finishing is so prolific,” said Gheiser, who coached Stewart-Baynes for four years with Vaughan before Halifax. “We say he has ice in his veins. And generally when he plays, he doesn't feel much pressure.

“If the right team gets their hands on him, they'll be able to do something magic with him.”

Toronto took Indiana defender Joey Maher with the first pick of the second round (30th overall). Maher, an academic all-American who has finished his accounting degree, appeared in 85 matches (with 83 starts) and helped the Hoosiers to 40 clean sheets in those.

His older brother, Jack, plays for Nashville SC.

Syracuse defender Olu Oyegunle, from Brampton, Ont., who is also a Sigma FC product, was taken three picks later by the Chicago Fire. Akron midfielder Malik Henry, from Hamilton, went in the second round (39th overall) to Montreal.

Vancouver chose Hofstra midfielder Eliot Goldthorp in the second round (45th overall). The English native spent time with the academies of Manchester United, Leeds United and Bradford City.

Toronto opened the third round by taking Indiana midfielder Patrick McDonald (59th overall). Montreal then chose UConn forward Eli Conway (68th overall).

Vancouver used the 74th overall pick to select Ottawa forward Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau from St. John's. Toronto, with the 85th overall pick, took Stanford midfielder Fletcher Bank with Montreal choosing Western Michigan midfielder Carson Hodgson one pick later.

Eight Canadians went in last year's draft, including four in the first round led by Montreal's Moise Bombito, a University of New Hampshire defender taken third overall by Colorado.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.