By Ben Ferree/NPSL.com
Everyone is looking for a fresh start in 2021 after the pandemic shortened season of 2020. NPSL alum Todd Wharton is getting his new start with a new team.
Wharton is the one of the latest signings for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Hounds have made multiple high-profile USL signings this season as they look to capture a championship, something Wharton did in 2013 with NPSL side RVA FC and in 2014 with the Virginia Cavaliers.
“That experience [with the NPSL] was amazing,” Wharton said. “Our coach was a former Bundesliga II player so he was really experienced. He always said to us he wants us to be 100% for the college season. He brought together a really good group of guys from everywhere around Virginia. The training we had that season was even better than the games we played because of how high the level of our players and coach was. I think that was the most fit I ever was going into a college season. I can’t say enough about how well [the NPSL] prepares you.”
Wharton has experienced the growth of the minor leagues in American soccer, playing for the NPSL, MLS affiliates, and USL teams over his career. In a short amount of time, he has seen the level of play greatly rise.
“You can tell year by year the talent just goes up and up and up,” Wharton said. “There hasn’t been one year where I’ve thought it’s been the same as last year. They keep signing better players and improving the leagues. Hopefully it continues to grow. I know it’s a long ways away, but hopefully we get to a system that other European countries have. I’m proud to have been a part of so many leagues.”
Wharton most recently played with Saint Louis FC, but the veteran midfielder also has experience with Rio Grande Valley FC and Portland Timbers 2.
Now with Pittsburgh, Wharton has his mind set on something he hasn’t accomplished since his collegiate days – winning a title.
“The lowest goal I have for the team is to make the playoffs, but we want to compete for a championship,” Wharton said. “I’ve been trying to sign [in Pittsburgh] the last few years. I have a lot of ties to the area, my dad grew up here, my girlfriend lives here, it’s really nice to be in the city.”
On a personal level, Wharton is looking to make more of a direct impact on the field.
“I’m trying to make more splash plays,” Wharton said. “Not so much being the game manager I’ve been throughout my career, but take more chances and risks and get goals and assists and set up goals for other guys and change the game.”
Photo Credit: USL/Saint Louis FC