Major League Soccer
Cameron Porter: From Iffy Prospect to MLS Hero
The former Princeton forward barely got invited to the MLS Combine, didn't get drafted until the 45th overall pick, and then delivered one of the biggest goals an MLS player could possibly score.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedIF YOU'RE AN AMERICAN SOCCER PROSPECT with Major League Soccer aspirations, you definitely want to be in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in early January. But you don't want to get there too soon. That's because there are two pro soccer combines held in this south Florida city: The MLS Combine, which features top-rated prospects, was held January 9-13 this year. The lesser-known Infosport Combine, designed for second-tier prospects, started January 6 and ended two days later. Princeton University forward Cameron Porter was initially passed over for the MLS event and was about to depart for the Infosport Combine when he was offered a spot in the more prestigious gathering. Porter immediately called his agent, Ron Waxman, who advised him to change his travel plans and attend the MLS Combine instead. Smart move. Porter impressed MLS scouts and coaches in Ft. Lauderdale and was selected by the Montreal Impact in the third round of the MLS draft. And while most players drafted that low usually end up being cut, Porter defied the odds and earned a contract. “I definitely was frustrated,” Porter told American Soccer Now about being left off the initial MLS Combine roster. “I definitely wanted to be there. But you have to realize there are a lot of really good players out there. Just because I didn’t catch the eye of MLS coaches during my senior season doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to happen. "As soon as I fully internalized that, it was just back to usual—doing what I can to work hard." Porter's head-down approach helped him land a spot on Montreal's roster, and it also contributed to one of the biggest and most dramatic goals an MLS player will score this year. On Tuesday night, he scored a fantastic goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send Montreal past Pachuca and into the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. It was just the third time and MLS team has ever defeated a Mexican team over two legs in the competition and it was the first time a Canadian team has done so. The goal, which is being dubbed as the Miracle in Montreal, was easily the biggest in team history. “I think more than anything it is a humbling experience because you score a goal like that and expectations go up,” Porter told American Soccer Now. “So now, if anything, I need to work harder to achieve my goals just because that sets the bar higher than it was before and every time I step onto the field I have to meet that expectation as best I can.” Porter's late strike sent the big Olympic stadium crowd of 38,104 into a frenzy and since then Porter has been inundated with radio shows, media interviews, and all sorts of publicity requests. It is unusual for a non-hockey athlete to be receiving such attention but Porter has been enjoying it—even when being asked to sing the club's chant on TSN radio. The attention is quite a departure from his days at Princeton, where he scored 15 goals in 17 games during his senior season but went largely unnoticed by most pundits who covered the college game. Porter credits Princeton head coach Jim Barlow for preparing him for the professional stage. “When I got to Princeton, it was really Barlow and his staff that helped me develop into a team player that not only helped myself but helped the others around me,” Porter said. “That is the next step here where everyone is even better and it is my job to help set them up to succeed.” Barlow was at a New York City Soccer Gala on Tuesday when he learned that Porter had scored. When he got back home, he watched the game and could hardly believe the enormity of the moment. For him, it was reassuring to see that he was correct in his assessment of Porter being able to play at a higher level. “We all thought he was a really, really dominant college forward,” Barlow said. “We still had questions about whether his good stuff would be good enough at the next level because it is just hard to know that from watching college games. But based on the evidence we could gather, he did really well on some matchups in college against defenders who wound up having really good years and went on to play after college. "We think he’s got so many tools. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s competitive, his natural instinct is go to goal and run at you. He drives defenders nuts. He makes them miserable to try to deal with him. Not to say it is all perfect but he’s got some great starting points and great tools.” Barlow is optimistic about Porter's future in the game. “He’s a really intelligent guy and I think he understands what his strengths are,” Barlow added. “He’s really good at figuring out during games how to use his strengths to help his team win. I think that part is going to be really important for him to succeed at the next level. Wither every minute he gets, he’s going to feel more and more comfortable. "He’s only gotten 20 minutes so far so we can’t get too carried away. But man, what a great start.” Montreal midfielder Dilly Duka scored both away goals against Pachuca and helped set the stage for Porter's decisive tally. The New Jersey native was not aware of Porter before the preseason but has come away impressed with the rookie's willingness to learn. “Cameron is a good guy,” Duka said. “In the past couple weeks, he's been a great student of the game. Works hard every day, and is always absorbing information given by the staff and veterans. I'm sure he'll get good minutes this year being a rookie on a veteran-filled team. "His success so far, is much appreciated by all the players and staff on the team.” Looking back at his now-famous goal, Porter maintained his composure after his first touch when it was clear he had an opportunity to score. He did not rush the shot or try to make a difficult shot into the upper corner. He took his time to notice the vulnerable opening Pachuca goalkeeper Oscar Perez was giving him. He then calmly executed with an easy shot between Perez’s legs. “I think at the college level I developed into a calm finisher,” Porter said. “I think more than anything else in particular was Nigel [Reo Coker] was on me in practice telling me, ‘Don’t be tense, smooth finishes, inside of the foot.’ Internalizing that again helped a lot once you get onto the big stage and you’re in front of far more fans than you ever thought you’d play in front of.” Porter believes that Montreal has a chance to become the first team to win the CONCACAF Champions League and qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup. He was not part of the Impact's dreadful 2014 season—the club finished with the league’s worst record—but he sees healthy internal competition where the “whole locker room and attitude is just amazing right now.” He also realizes that his rookie season has yet to begin—the Impact play D.C. United today at 3pm ET—and that his goal against Pachuca, as dramatic as it was, was still just a solitary strike. “I recognize that I am still a young player,” Porter said. “My goal is to really develop into a professional player. Whether that means starting or coming off the bench, I want to find my role that helps the team as much as possible." Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.
March 07, 2015
March 07, 2015