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Nashville SC's Jacob Shaffelburg (left) and Toronto FC's Tyrese Spicer (right) battle for the ball during a match at Geodis Park, Nashville, TN on Wednesday, May 15th 2024. PHOTO BY: Lukas Kschischang

On Wednesday night in Nashville, a showdown between two of the fastest players on the pitch saw Tyrese Spicer tasked with keeping Jacob Shaffelburg at bay.

That was part of the game plan that acting Toronto FC head coach Jason de Vos and his team aimed to execute to secure at least a point in Nashville. That part of the plan was effectively accomplished and TFC were on the verge of departing Nashville with a point before slipping to a late 2-0 defeat.

Making his seventh start for the club, the Reds’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft Spicer was matched with CanMNT winger Shaffelburg the familiar face to TFC fans. And Spicer was confident that he stood up well to the task.

“I mean, he had a lot of experiences and he’s a very good dynamic player,” Spicer told reporters post-game of his effort to contain the pacey winger.

“I would say I was up to the task. I didn’t doubt myself at all. I was believing myself. It was self-belief. You could do anything with that. John [Herdman] was like, you have [the] quality of the speed to match his speed.”

With determination on his side, Spicer faced the challenge head-on. And assistant coach De Vos, stepping up in John Herdman’s absence, was proud of how his team matched up against a side who weren’t able to find their stride until the dying minutes of the game.

“I thought the players that stepped in today did an excellent job and executed the game plan,” De Vos told reporters in the post-game press conference.

“Just to be a tight team, to be very difficult to play through, to beat, to deal with their front two. And the pace that they have and the pace of Shaffelburg, who we know very well from our time with the national team.

“For large parts of the game, we did that. There’s a lot to be proud of, a lot to be pleased with.”

Despite facing unfortunate circumstances with a long list of injuries and suspensions, TFC’s makeshift lineup performed well, setting the stage for former Lipscomb University man Spicer to impress with a strong individual performance.

He did his job on Shaffelburg; by the time the Reds succumbed to late goals from two of Nashville’s second-half substitutes, Shaq Moore in the 81st minute and Teal Bunbury in stoppage time, Shaffelburg had been off the field for more than 20 minutes as he was substituted on the hour mark.

“I think I was just focused. I was always a step ahead of [Shaffelburg]. And I think that I did well. My teammates were like ‘really good job’ [at] half-time. Again, go back out there second half and do the same job. And I think I did a good job. I think John should be [happy]. I’m happy with that.”

Looking ahead, TFC must maintain their focus for their upcoming home games as they host Canadian rivals CF Montréal at BMO Field on Saturday for the 42nd installment of the 401 Derby.

“I just think that we look forward to that Montréal game,” Spicer added. “It’s going to be a derby game. It’s going to be my first derby game. I think it’s going to be very aggressive, very intense, very high-tempo game.

“Playing at home, BMO Field, we play for the fans, we play to entertain the fans. So I think we have a good mindset. We go back to the training ground and practice and come out there strong and get that three points on Saturday.”

Unless TFC’s absentee list improves dramatically over the next 48 hours, Spicer could be in line for a big role again.

SOURCE: Waking the Red