MLS DRAFT: Wenger is a prize

CARSON -- If there's a can't-miss prospect in Thursday morning's MLS SuperDraft, it's Duke University's Andrew Wenger, a versatile defender/midfielder/forward who last week won the Hermann Trophy as college soccer's top player.

He's almost universally pegged as the No. 2 selection, by the Vancouver Whitecaps, following speedy Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks of Akron, and at least one critic has proclaimed him the best candidate on the board in central defense, as a defensive midfielder -- maybe even as a winger and a forward.

“Everyone has their opinions,” said Wenger, a two-time NSCAA first-team All-American who signed a Generation adidas contract with Major League Soccer following his junior season.

The buzz is deafening for the Lilitz, Pa., product, and he admits he has heard a lot of it.

“I think it's pretty hard not to,” said Wenger, who is training until Jan. 25 at Home Depot Center with the U.S. under-23 national team -- although he jetted to Kansas City on Wednesday for the festivities. “I mean, I'll listen to it a little bit, and it's kind of interesting and funny from time to time, but at the end of the day, it's just what you can do on the field.”

Wenger, 21, can do plenty. He anchored Duke's backline as a freshman and sophomore and was pushed up front last fall, scoring 17 goals with eight assists to lead the Blue Devils to an 11-8-3 record and into the second round of the NCAA tournament. But his best position, he says, might be in midfield.

“More as a two-way midfielder,” he explained, “because I'm not a pure defender. If you watch me play, some of my instincts to defend are not the purest. It's not like I was born to defend.

“Once it all gets figured out [which team I'm going to], the coach will tell me where he wants me to play, and I'll focus on that.”

It seems certain he's headed to Canada. Expansion Montreal, with the first pick, might go for Wenger, who is expected to step into somebody's starting lineup, over Mattocks, who has tremendous upside but needs to grow. Impact coach Jesse Marsch, the former Chivas USA captain, says he's made his decision, but we won't know what it is until Thursday morning (ESPN2, 9 a.m.).

Wenger has been to Vancouver -- he had a short training stint with the Whitecaps during his youth -- but never to Montreal, and he's been doing his research.

“I've been watching a lot of Travel Channel lately,” he said. “I've become a fan of Anthony Bourdain just watching his [food] shows about Vancouver and Montreal.”