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The Kids Are Alright: Analyzing the latest batch of TFC academy graduates

Eight TFC academy graduates have begun their journeys with the first team.

Deandre Kerr and Luca Petrasso are among eight players making their MLS debut this season - April 16, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red

It was never going to be easy to transition following Greg Vanney’s departure, but since Bob Bradley’s appointment as Head Coach and Sporting Director, Toronto FC has seen a growth in youth players being offered their first professional contracts with the first team. Moreover, it’s never a bad sign to give new players a chance to grow in a bigger environment. Sometimes, however, it comes down to injuries within the squad, but most of the time, their addition to the first team is due to players deserving the chance to make an impression on the big stage.

Coach Bradley has previously stated his appreciation for utilizing the youth in the squad at his disposal, and with the injury list growing in recent weeks, TFC has had to make strong replacement suggestions as to who will likely earn some minutes with the first team. To this day, eight of the TFC Academy and TFC II graduates have begun making an impression with the first team

Here are the eight prospects who have taken the step up and been in and around the Toronto FC senior squad.

Themi Antonoglou

  • Position: Defender
  • Age: 20 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: April 24, 2022 vs NYCFC

Born in Toronto, ON, Themi Antonoglou began playing for Toronto FC II in 2019 and has featured 26 times for the second team. Normally a left-back, Antonoglou has scored four goals and provided three assists in USL League One/MLS NEXT Pro.

Antonoglou was able to come off the bench for the first team as a substitute and play the last ten minutes in a 5-4 loss to NYCFC in April. The youngster did sign a homegrown first team contract last week, and despite being loaned back to TFC II, Antonoglou could serve as a reliable depth piece in the left-back position.

Kobe Franklin

Kobe Franklin in a game vs FC Cincinnati II - April 30, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Defender
  • Age: 19 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: May 4, 2022 vs FC Cincinnati

19-year-old Kobe Franklin began playing for TFC III in 2018 and signed his first contract with TFC II in May of last year. Franklin has made 29 appearances for the second team and has scored one goal in five games in MLS NEXT Pro this year.

Franklin was called up to the first team on April 1st, but was only featured on the bench in two games that month. He was then offered two more short-term loans with the first team and came off the bench in the May 4th game at FC Cincinnati. He played the remaining 13 minutes and tallied four touches and one completed pass.

Franklin and fellow TFC II graduate Paul Rothrock already have a strong connection together.

Deandre Kerr

Deandre Kerr in a game vs Philadelphia Union - April 16, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Winger
  • Age: 19 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: February 26, 2022 vs FC Dallas

In his sophomore year with the Syracuse Orange in 2021, Deandre Kerr scored a team-high nine goals and added three assists in 13 appearances, leading to a 2021 All-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) first team selection and being named the team’s MVP. After spending his youth with the TFC Academy, Kerr, an Ajax, ON native, signed a three-year homegrown player contract before the start of the 2022 season.

Normally coming off the bench in the latter stages of games, Kerr has been making the transition to a regular starter in recent weeks, averaging 374 minutes in seven appearances for the first team squad. Kerr’s first MLS goal came in the 86th minute of the 5-4 loss to NYCFC.

Adam Pearlman

  • Position: Defender
  • Age: 17 y/o
  • From: Johannesburg, SA
  • Professional Debut: N/A

Born in South Africa, Adam Pearlman moved to Thornhill, ON when he was seven and joined the TFC Academy four years later, playing through the U12-U19 levels. Pearlman has yet to make an appearance for the first team, having been featured on the bench in two games thus far: April 16th vs Philadelphia Union and May 14th vs Orlando City SC.

Playing as a defender, Pearlman started playing for TFC III last year and was awarded a professional contract with the second team in April of this year. And although the 17-year-old has only made four appearances for the club’s reserve team, Pearlman is young and will likely earn more opportunities in the near future with the many different midfield options at the club’s disposal.

Luca Petrasso

Luca Petrasso focuses on a pass in a game against Philadelphia Union - April 16, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Left-back/Winger
  • Age: 21 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: March 5 vs New York Red Bulls

TFC academy graduate Luca Petrasso was signed to the first team in January of this year and so far, has made 11 appearances in MLS. The 21-year-old Toronto native mainly plays as a left-back, although we have seen him play in a more advanced left-wing role too. Since Petrasso signed his professional contract in 2018, he has made 62 appearances for TFC II, scoring three goals and providing seven assists.

Petrasso’s speed and versatility on the pitch has been an added bonus for the club in 2022. Petrasso has earned himself a spot in the first team and has already been making contributions to the squad this season, notably recording his first assist by setting up Jesús Jiménez in his MLS debut; and also by setting up Jonathan Osorio with an excellent cross into the box in the win against D.C. United.

If Petrasso continues to impress, his name could potentially get added to the CanMNT squad discussion.

Paul Rothrock

Paul Rothrock in a game vs Orlando SC - May 14, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 23 y/o
  • From: Seattle, WA
  • Professional Debut: May 4, 2022 vs FC Cincinnati

Paul Rothrock has been one player in the reserve team with an interesting resume and one that could be a real impact player for the club in the future. The 23-year-old forward hails from Seattle, WA, and after spending time with the Seattle Sounders academy, Rothrock was drafted by Toronto FC in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft and signed a professional contract with TFC II in May of last year. In 12 games last season, Rothrock scored four goals and tallied two assists.

This season, Rothrock has played in five games with TFC II and has three goals to his name, along with three assists. Rothrock has also earned himself a spot in the first team after first being called up for the game at FC Cincinnati on May 4th as a bench player. He then got to play for a minute against the Vancouver Whitecaps a few days later.

Most recently, Rothrock was subbed in for Jordan Perruzza in the 58th minute on May 14th against Orlando City SC, earning himself 32 minutes of playtime, and although he didn’t get on the score sheet, there were few plays where he was linking up well with his teammates.

Kosi Thompson

Kosi Thompson catches up to the ball in a game vs FC Cincinnati - April 30, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Right-back/Midfield
  • Age: 19 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: March 12, 2022 vs Columbus Crew

19-year-old North York native Kosi Thompson became the 29th player in club history to sign with the first team from the Toronto FC Academy after an impressive preseason earlier this year. Thompson was a key piece for TFC II last season, appearing in 27 games and starting 16. He also contributed one goal to his tally.

In ten appearances so far this season for Toronto FC, Thompson has started seven games this season, scoring one goal and providing one assist. Thompson’s first MLS goal came in the ninth minute of the 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake on April 9th.

Steffen Yeates

Steffen Yeates in a game vs FC Cincinnati 2 - April 30, 2022
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
  • Position: Midfield
  • Age: 22 y/o
  • From: Toronto, ON
  • Professional Debut: May 4, 2022 vs FC Cincinnati

22-year-old midfielder and Toronto native Steffen Yeates has been with the TFC Academy since 2016. In November 2021, Yeates, along with teammates Luca Petrasso and Paul Rothrock, were named to the USL League One TOTW for Week 30 after having a very successful outing in a match against the New England Revolution II.

Yeates has yet to make an impact with the squad but managed to come on as a substitute on May 4th against FC Cincinnati, playing 26 minutes. He was also subbed on for Deandre Kerr in the 85th minute of the 1-0 loss to Vancouver on May 8th.

The young players are eager to showcase their athleticism in MLS and make their imprint towards their professional careers. But it was never going to be easy. They’ll be faced with many challenges (ex. injuries, transfers, play time). Yet, what this young core can achieve with the first team minutes they earn will undeniably help them further down the road.

Every one of these players has received a healthy amount of exposure to the first team this season, and that will only increase as the season plays out. Head coach Bob Bradley has already indicated his intention to fielding a younger squad to help them continue to grow with one another.

With an Italian national team star and club leader in Lorenzo Insigne arriving in the summer, the young TFC graduates will have someone to look up to and learn from to further develop their skills. It’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to see how Insigne’s craft can affect TFC’s younger core.