MONTREAL – It doesn’t get more Hail Mary than that.
The Montreal Impact were 3-2 down on aggregate, under a minute remained, and hope was fading. Pachuca had taken the lead on a penalty kick about 10 minutes earlier, stunning the Olympic Stadium crowd.
Calum Mallace picked up the ball in his own half. Well into his own half. Moving past a marker, he summoned the soccer gods.
“I took a couple of steps, I looked up, and [Cameron] Porter does what he does every day in training,” Mallace told reporters after the game of his rookie teammate's run. “The reason we signed this guy is he’s so hardworking, and he takes risks like that. I saw him run up the shoulder of their right back, and sure enough, I hit the right ball. Great finish by Cameron."
But most of all, an important finish, perhaps the most important in Montreal Impact history. With one swing of his foot, the 21-year-old Porter, still a college student, beat Óscar Pérez, a World Cup veteran goalkeeper exactly twice his age.
It was an unexpected lesson in composure – Porter said that he didn’t even think to fall down as he felt the contact from a defender in the box – and it sent Montreal through to the semifinals of the Scotiabank Champions League, the Impact's away goals advantage breaking a 3-3 aggregate tie.
“The veterans are always just saying, ‘Don’t be tense,’” Porter said. “’Don’t be tense, relax on the ball, be ready for your moment and seize that opportunity.’ The opportunity came, and it was the same as in college. You just have to put the ball in the net. Be calm. Touch it through.”
To think, this was Porter’s second appearance for the club that drafted him in the third round of this year’s MLS SuperDraft. Porter’s mission was simple: just score, kid. Just score.
“Besides games, we put a lot into what guys do in training, their effort, their commitment, their workrate,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “You have to reward the guys when they deserve to be on the field.”
Last week, in the 2-2 draw at Pachuca, Klopas had brought Porter on for fresh legs to hold up or chase the ball. This game dictated something else. The more time passed, the more open it became, and after Germán Cano’s goal, it seemed as if divine intervention was needed.
“But like I said to the players,” Klopas remarked, “God never sleeps.”
And neither does Mary.