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TFC takes Spicer with first overall pick in SuperDraft

Tyrese Spicer Lipscomb Tyrese Spicer - Lipscomb University

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, the 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. "

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.

Duke midfielder Wayne Frederick went second to Colorado with FC Dallas trading up to pick third to take Oregon State forward Logan Farrington, one of a handful of players to sign a contract with the league before the draft.

Stewart-Baynes went fourth overall to Colorado while Austin FC took University of Washington centre back Nate Jones fifth.

Stewart-Baynes and University of Virginia freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi (pronounced uh-nore jem-fee) 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.

Canadian internationals Tajon Buchanan (2019), Cyle Larin (2015), Richie Laryea (2016), Dayne St. Clair (2019) and Moïse Bombito (2023) all began their professional careers as Generation Adidas signings.

Larin was taken first overall in the 2015 draft by Orlando City SC.

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.

Stewart-Baynes, a unanimous Big Ten all-freshman team selection, is Maryland's second Big Ten Freshman of the Year following Joshua Bolma, who won the award in 2021. Former TFC players Patrick Mullins (2010) and Jeremy Hall (2006) won conference freshman of the year honours in the ACC.

His 10 combined goals and assists were the most by a Maryland freshman since current Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson totalled 11 in 2015.

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."

CF Montreal picks 10th. 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.

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 the Colorado Rapids.

It had been 10 years since Toronto FC last held the top pick in the MLS SuperDraft and the club traded away that selection. New England, the beneficiary of that deal, used it to select Andrew Farrell.

The veteran defender remains with the Revolution and now leads all MLS players in regular-season minutes (28,724), appearances (327) and starts (322).

Midfielder Kyle Bekker, taken third overall by Toronto that year using a pick acquired in a deal with Portland, spent two seasons in Toronto colours before moving to FC Dallas, CF Montreal and finally Forge FC, where he has won CPL trophies as captain.

Toronto traded away its first-round picks in 2018, 2022 and 2023.

Ahead of its inaugural season, Toronto FC took midfielder Maurice Edu with the first overall pick of the 2007 draft.


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