Thu, May

Mar 23, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, USA; Toronto FC forward Tyrese Spicer (16) celebrates his goal against Atlanta United at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Only three times in their history has Toronto FC had the first-overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.

In 2007, the club’s inaugural season, TFC selected Maurice Edu with the first pick. Edu was named Rookie of the Year at the campaign’s end and was transferred to Rangers FC in Scotland midway through his second campaign.

In 2013, with two picks in the top three, TFC traded the first-overall pick to the New England Revolution.

And in 2024 the club put their faith in Trinidadian attacker Tyrese Spicer out of Lipscomb University in Tennessee.

Spicer made his MLS debut away to NYCFC on March 16, coming on in the 75th minute as the side looked for an equalizer. He nearly made an instant impact, flinging an inviting ball in behind the defense.

A week later at BMO Field against Atlanta United the 23-year-old made his first MLS start and just 35 minutes in he capped off an incisive passing move that began with Lorenzo Insigne cutting in-field to find Deandre Kerr who slipped a ball to Spicer just inside the box.

First start, first goal, first Man of the Match, first spot in the MLS Team of the Matchday; quite the night for a young man.

After the final whistle, Spicer had one thing on his mind.

“As soon as I hit the dressing room, I texted my dad, ‘You saw the goal? You saw the goal?’” he shared. “And he was like, ‘Yeah son, I saw it.’”

“Thank God he saw it. I'm sure he's very proud,” Spicer continued. “Where I came from, it was a struggle. We never had a lot of stuff, a lot of money, it was a grind. It was tough, but knowing where I come from and grinding to be at this spot right now... It was a hell of a journey. I’m thankful for it.”

There will always be a few butterflies on a night like that.

“I was a bit nervy at the start and then I started settling down,” Spicer admitted.

The weather could have been a little more welcoming to a native of Trincity.

“Super cold. This is probably the coldest I've ever played in my life,” he laughed. “This is too cold for me. I like the beach and sand and warm, that’s what I like.”

Since being selected first-overall in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft Spicer has been thrust straight into the life of a professional footballer.

“A lot has changed, very quickly,” he summarized. “I was just in college and then now in the professional life, a professional environment.”

“I had to adapt really quickly,” Spicer continued. “I was injured, I had a broken toe. Coming back from that was difficult, but I had my teammates, John [Herdman], Alex [Dodgshon], the wing-back specific coach, talking to me, just keep grinding, keep working, keep my head down.”

“Keep focused most of all and keep doing film behind the scenes, looking at different players, how they play, how they adapt in different situations,” he echoed. “So when I get my opportunity, I can take it.”

Spicer played primarily on the front-line in university, but TFC saw potential for him in another spot.

“We talked about that wing-back being a maverick,” explained Herdman. “When we saw him at the NCAA, he was a wide forward and he was so direct.”

“I think of Tajon Buchanan [ninth-overall 2019 MLS SuperDraft pick out of Syracuse University turned Canadian international now at Inter Milan]. He's got that directness, he wants to get at that player, wants to see the whites of their eyes,” he continued. “[Spicer] will start to develop a new threat level for us because when you've got that level of pace teams have to respect that.”

“It starts to loosen things up for Lorenzo or whoever is in those pockets,” Herdman added. “They can't defend them as tight as they normally do.”

Asked if Spicer was the fastest player on the team, Herdman called him, “a sprinter.”

“He's got real pace,” he replied. “And he hasn't learned to use it yet either.”

“That's the exciting thing,” the coach continued. “He’s got to learn some of those little individual movements that maximize that type of pace. The wing-back coach, Dodgson, is working with him every day on these little patterns and he’s watching world-class wing-backs to close the gap.”

“Wide forward and wing-back are very different things. You’ve got to have the guts to want to make all the things you do to get in behind, knowing that when it doesn't come you've got a 60-yard recovery,” Herdman added. “We're building that physical profile to do both.”

Spicer is enjoying the ride.

“I'm definitely having so much fun,” he smiled. “I've been praying for this, I've been dreaming about this for my whole life; just being in this moment is surreal.”

“I still can't believe I scored, honestly,” Spicer added.

But he knows the journey has just begun.

“I still have a long way to go. I want to keep humble, keep going every single game, every single training session, and just soak in as much information from the lads that have been here,” Spicer closed. “I want to be able to contribute to the team as much as I can. Whenever I'm on that field, I’m going to give my 100%, every time.”