Last Friday, Toronto FC picked up 28-year-old right midfielder/defender Nick DeLeon in the 2018 MLS re-entry draft, where teams have the chance to pick up players who have had their options declined, and would be set to be released by the club otherwise.
His MLS career started off in 2012 when he was drafted to D.C. United seventh overall. He made his first appearance for D.C. United on March 18, coming on as a substitute against LA Galaxy; he also scored his first MLS goal in the game, as he scored D.C.’s only goal of the match in a 3-1 loss.
In terms of offensive numbers, 2012 still to this day was his best offensive year as he scored 6 goals and got 4 assists in 2,175 minutes. This means that he scored a goal every 362.5 minutes. That’s pretty good for a player who generally plays as a right midfielder. In fact, he was one of the best players for D.C. United that year, and even finished second in the MLS Rookie of the Year voting. He also scored a crucial goal in the 88th minute versus the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, which put D.C. United in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final.
In 2013, his career went a little sideways as he only scored two goals and got one assist all season.
In 2014 and 2015, he had some pretty solid seasons as he scored two goals, and got five assists in each season, and played over 2,000 minutes in both years. He continued to play mainly as a right midfielder, but his statistics were set to decline over the next few seasons as he became more and more of a squad rotation player who was expected to play in whatever position he was put in.
In 2016, he played in unnatural positions like left midfield, attacking midfield, and later on started his conversion to playing as a right back. He only scored one goal and got one assist that season.
When 2017 came around, DeLeon’s days started to look numbered in the Capitol. His time on the pitch declined dramatically, playing only 1,594 minutes in comparison to his 2,509 minutes recorded the previous year. A big reason for this was that he had some injury problems that year, but it looked like he was starting to get phased out of the team.
In 2018, he missed even more time due to injuries, where he was out for 21 games because of a knee injury. Despite his struggles in his final season with D.C. United, he scored a crucial goal in the playoffs for them to tie the game up with Columbus Crew SC and stretch out the knockout round game to penalties. This time, though, it didn’t go as well as six years before, and he ended up missing his penalty kick, which gave Columbus the win. And with his contract being up at the end of the year, he had his option declined, so TFC snatched him up while they could.
In terms of how he plays, he seems to be a classic winger who is good with the ball at his feet, and has pretty good ball control. He likes to cut in the box, and seems to score an amazing goal every once in a while, even from watching some of the highlights while he was playing with Louisville Cardinals, the college team that he was drafted from.
He should offer a decent amount of depth down the right side for Toronto FC, as a right winger, and right back.
In terms of his personal story, he is the son of Trinidad & Tobago hall of famer Leroy DeLeon. His father played in the World Cup, and was officially inducted into the Trinidad & Tobago football hall of fame in 2008. Unfortunately he left to go back to Trinidad & Tobago later on in Nick’s childhood, but they ended up reuniting, and his father continues to give his son pointers on how to improve as a footballer. I found out about his personal story in this ‘MLS Insider’ video, so you might want to check it out:
There’s one problem with DeLeon’s signing. I don’t know (especially if he becomes a backup player for TFC) if his contract is truly representative of what he brings to the team. I know he’s a good player, but $275,000 a year seems a little steep — even if they negotiate his contract down a bit. I know that MLS is continuing to increase the salary cap for each team, but he is lower than the $504,375 threshold to use Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) on him.
I believe the only way to pay it down would be using General Allocation Money (GAM), which is a lot more valuable than TAM as you can use it on any player. I just don’t know if come a year down the road, TFC would be willing to spend that much on him. Though we’ll have to see how he’ll pan out!