Toronto FC

Toronto FC land top talent in 2024 MLS SuperDraft: Tyrese Spicer leads a promising quartet of picks

Toronto FC made four selections in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft on Tuesday. 

Wide attacker Tyrese Spicer from Lipscomb University was the first name called at the draft. In the second round Toronto selected defender Joey Maher from Indiana University (30th overall) and come the third round they added a pair of midfielders in Patrick McDonald (59th overall), also from Indiana University, and Fletcher Bank from Stanford University (85th overall).

Spicer was TFC’s first first overall pick since Maurice Edu ahead of the inaugural 2007 season.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, honestly, I can't really describe my emotions,” said Spicer, still basking in the moment shortly after it was announced. “But throughout the whole journey, all the years, I’ve been putting in all the hard work. I've been going after everyone's left and putting in work. My dad always encouraged me to do the extra work, keep grinding, and it paid off.”

“Coming from a small country like Trinidad and Tobago, then making the transition to America and being the number one draft pick is just insane to me,” he smiled. “But I believe in myself, I trust God, put faith in God, and everything worked out how it’s supposed to.”

Following the conclusion of the draft, TFC General Manager Jason Hernandez spoke to the media about their picks.

“[Spicer] ticked so many of our boxes that it made all the sense in the world for us,” he said of the first overall pick.

“Tyrese can make a name for himself at the next level on the attacking left.”

“With John Herdman we're hoping to get a lot of joy from our flank play. Some of the profiles that John and his staff have maximized and seen flourish in the Canadian National Team, the Alphonso [Davies]’, the Richie [Laryea]’s, the Sam Adekugbe’s, guys who have the physical capacity to get up and down. For us, Tyrese would fit very much in a space that we certainly don't have that type of profile on the left,” Hernandez continued. “You could see him in a wing-back role, where he's bombing on and finding himself in the final third, able to join the attack, and have the quality in and around the final third because of his time as an attacker.”

The two had a chance to meet each other before the draft when Spicer came to Toronto.

“We had Tyrese fly up to Toronto, had him meet with all different people in our departments,” outlined Hernandez. “He met with the technical side, John and his folks. I met with him personally. He met with our technical director and he met with our sports science, high performance, and our medical teams.”

“We all got a chance to meet, not just the player, but the person,” he continued. “One thing that hit home for me straight away is I was looking at a young, focused, determined, aspiring young professional. A guy who came from humble beginnings and has real responsibility behind him to push him to succeed.”

“This is what led him on a journey outside of Trinidad and Tobago to university and what pushed him forward to be a multi-time all-American at the NCAA space,” Hernandez highlighted. “John said it best when he first stepped through the doors: we want the right players, but we want the right people, and so to have a determined young man [with] all of the attributes we would want out of a young pro was quite impressive and left a great impression on me.”

Said Spicer of going to TFC: “I'm delighted right now.”

“I had a conversation with the head coach, I had a conversation with the assistant coach, they saw me as a key player in the NCAA and they had their eyes on me,” he added. “I had some awareness that Toronto is interested in my abilities.”

He was surrounded by friends and family as Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares made TFC’s selection.

“Honestly, I couldn't do it without them,” said Spicer. “Having the support, them having my back since I was young.”

“My uncle bought me my first-ever cleats; he was here. My school friends are here with me as well to celebrate this moment. There's a ton of people that helped me along the way,” he continued. “My mom always tried to keep my head on track or not stray off the path. My dad was a coach and he always keeps me on my P's and Q's of developing my game.”

Spicer, who turned 23 earlier this month, reflected on the journey that took him from his native Trincity, Trinidad to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and now to Canada with TFC.

“There's been a lot of highs and lows,” he began.

“When I started in high school, I wasn't the best. I wasn't the most technical, the strongest, the fastest. Over the years there were particular coaches in my life – my dad, he coached me in school; Mr. Warrick, he coached me at Trincity Nationals – they helped me really develop my game.”

“I was mainly one dimensional. Over the years they took me and guided me under their wing. My coach at Trincity Nationals used to let me play against under 17s when I was 14 to get mental toughness and everything,” Spicer continued. “There were times I struggled. I didn’t have food, I wouldn’t have money to go to school, and that would impact my life a little bit, but I overcame that and got the opportunity to go to Lipscomb.”

“The coach there, Charles Morrow, really helped me out, really helped me direct myself in the right path to be able to even get this opportunity right here. There's a lot of stuff I couldn't have done without Coach Morrow, I thank him so much,” he added. “Through it all there was a lot of struggle, but I’m here right now, the number one pick.”

As with any first year professional there will be a learning curve as Spicer adjusts to the MLS level.

“I wouldn't want to necessarily put any undue pressure, but what I would say is we drafted Tyrese because we understand it's a positional need and we understand he has the qualities to make an impact,” levelled Hernandez. “As we all know the jump from NCAA to MLS does take some time for different folks, so that's something we're going to keep in mind as we're bringing him along. We want this player to be a part of the evolution of TFC. I anticipate him to be helping us in short order.”

Spicer was joined by three more recruits in the second and third rounds. 

Defender Joey Maher, 22, is the younger brother of Nashville SC defender Jack Maher – Jack scored his first MLS goal against TFC during his rookie season in 2021.

“Joey is an interesting one in that there is a little bit of synergy when you have a family dynamic, having a brother who's already been in the MLS ranks,” laid out Hernandez. “His understanding of what it takes to be successful at the university level and what that then will take to be successful at the MLS level is something that really resonates with this player.”

“Having an opportunity to watch him play at Indiana, watch him at the showcase, you understand you're looking at it at a young pro who is very diligent and studious at the centre-back position,” he continued. “He's had a stellar career at Indiana University and we all know defensively and at the centre-back position there's competition to be had. So from profile, personality, attributes, and mentality, this player brings a lot to the table.”

In the third round Toronto selected a pair of 20-year-old midfielders in Patrick McDonald and Fletcher Bank.

“Patrick, from our deep dive in the college space, is a player that we thought really had a strong push in the second half of the season,” said Hernandez. “A box-to-box guy that still has a big ceiling and some room to grow. He's in a program where they do a really good job of refining young professionals. It made sense to key in on the player and see what comes, with the understanding that the player likely is going to return to school, in the fashion that Charlie Sharp did.”

Sharp was Toronto’s third round pick last season who had an excellent campaign with Western Michigan University and is a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top NCAA player of the year.

“Fletcher is a guy in the left winger space. Left-footed, big cardio aerobic players who have some football to them don't don't grow on trees,” noted the TFC GM. “His data flagged very, very highly what we measure and what we look for out of the left side. Another one where we project the player being at Stanford – it's not easy to turn away that program academically and athletically – but two guys that are worth [it] for us to continue to have an open dialogue with and monitor, whether they go back in the NCAA space or they're looking to see where they fit with TFC.”

The glow of draft day will linger into the holidays for all four of these young men, but this is just another step along the way.

“We're going to connect the dots straightaway with all these guys, understand what their individual situations are,” said Hernandez. “MLS has the Rookie Symposium produced by the Player Engagement department. If you are a draft pick or a homegrown signing for that year, you have the opportunity to go down and get a crash course in all things MLS.”

Soon enough it will be January and players will be reporting for medicals and preseason training.

Spicer can’t wait.

“I would like to come into the first team,” he anticipated.

“I think I'm good enough to have an impact on it.”

“I know that the transition from NCAA level to MLS level is going to be a jump and I'm going to have to adjust to the fast pace and the high IQ of these players,” he continued. “I trust in myself, I'm confident, always, in myself, and I can feed off of these pros and they could guide me. And just go from there and help the team as much as I can to win championships.”

“The goal, from what the coach told me, is we have a mountain to climb. Picking me is going to help the team,” Spicer closed. “I'm going to try my best to help everyone around me to reach that goal and win championships.”