One of the top prospects at his position in the 2016 MLS Superdraft, soccer experts were shocked Todd Wharton went undrafted. After an incredible season leading the Portland Timbers U-23 PDL side, Wharton will look to continue his great play and show the MLS teams that he deserves a spot in the league. I was able to talk to Todd about going undrafted, teaming up with former college teammate Eric Bird, and most importantly, where would the United States' third President play on the soccer pitch.
Q: Top Drawer Soccer listed you going undrafted as one of the top snubs of the 2016 MLS Superdraft, how frustrating of an experience was that for you?
Wharton: It was disappointing to not get drafted because that was a dream of mine since I first started playing soccer. But I've put that behind me and I'm using it as motivation to get better everyday to hopefully make an MLS roster in the future.
Q: You were a finalist for the PDL's Young Player of the Year last year, how do you keep that success going?
Wharton: I think the main thing for me to be successful is to just be confident in my abilities as a player. I've gotten advice from a lot of different people recently but at the end of the day it comes down to what I can do on the field. I just got to go out there and try my hardest at every practice and in every game and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.
Q: What is the biggest thing you provide the Toros to help the team win this season?
Wharton: I think a very valuable part of my game is consistency. Playing in the central midfield, you must be steady on the ball and willing to put in the defensive work to win balls back. I think I can do both of those things well that will establish some solidarity in the middle to keep things tight at the back while jump starting the attack.
Q: Being a defensive mid, how confident do you feel knowing Devin Perales is the keeper behind you?
Wharton: From what I've seen so far from Devin, I'm very comfortable with him in goal. He's a very good shot stopper and he has surprised me with how good he is with his feet.
Q: After starring on the Timbers PDL side last year, how excited are you to take on Timbers 2 early this season?
Wharton: I try look at every game the same way so I'm excited for all the early season games. Knowing some of the guys from Timbers 2 will add a little bit of an edge to it, but all in all it's still just like any other soccer game.
Q: Is it exciting to be reuniting with your former University of Virginia teammate Eric Bird?
Wharton: Having Eric on this team with me is awesome. I've played with or against him in Virginia since we were 9 years old so having some familiarity on the field is always an advantage. Other than being a great player, he's also a really good friend of mine that will make my experience here a lot more enjoyable.
Q: Who do you think is more beloved on UVA's campus, yourself or Eric?
Wharton: Tough to say, but I think I have a slight edge on him. *laughs*
Q: Going back to the college days, the two of you won the NCAA Championship in 2014 on penalties. You took and converted the first PK, were you nervous?
Wharton: I never get nervous before games or PK shootouts, so I was excited more than anything. I embrace the pressure situations and feel as if I actually perform better when there is more pressure. Being in those moments is something you picture doing when you're a kid so once you get in the actual moment it should be easy.
Q: As I'm sure you're aware, the University of Virginia was founded by our country's third President, Thomas Jefferson. Where would the Father Of The Declaration Of Independence play on the soccer pitch?
Wharton: *laughs* That's a tough question. I think because of how good of a leader and how intelligent he was, he'd have to be either a CM or a CB. Those positions are usually filled with the best decision makers who can read the game well so I think he would fit in nicely.
Another day closer to the start of the 2016 USL season! Stay tuned tomorrow for more exclusive player interviews this week.