MONTREAL – The news that everybody expected but nobody wanted to hear finally came late on Tuesday.
Rookie Cameron Porter, hero of Montreal’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal win over Pachuca, will indeed undergo season-ending surgery next week to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Porter sustained the injury this past Saturday, when he landed awkwardly on the Gillette Stadium turf during Montreal’s 0-0 draw at New England.
Porter’s absence leaves Montreal short on numbers at the forward position. Considering that Dominic Oduro is likely to carry on as right midfielder after two fine performances, the Impact have Jack McInerney and Romario Williams, who declined a Jamaica call-up to help his club team, to choose from up top. Homegrown forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel, meanwhile, faces a race against time for fitness.
But even before Porter got injured, the club had been on the hunt for a more experienced striker to complement their other forwards, who are all 22 years old or younger – Oduro aside. Montreal will keep exploring possibilities, including on the domestic stage.
“There are options within the league that we have to look at, to see if something makes sense through a trade,” head coach Frank Klopas said on Wednesday. “But I think it’s important to make one for someone that can help us, not just for right now, short-term. Short-term is good, but we’ve got to think about long-term effects, how he fits in the club —you don’t want to disrupt the cohesion within the team. But we need to add someone there.”
Defender Wandrille Lefèvre, who may see action for the first time this season with Laurent Ciman on international duty with Belgium and Hassoun Camara suspended, perfectly captured what the loss of Porter has meant to the Impact and to their support.
“It hurts us mentally, too, because he’s an endearing guy who comes here every day and works hard,” Lefèvre said. “It breaks my heart to see a story that started so well be shoved to the sidelines like that for a time.”
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In the meantime, McInerney has the opportunity to earn a spot which, he admits, he may have taken for granted. When Montreal traded for McInerney in April 2014, the assumed plan called for Marco Di Vaio to pass the torch to him at the season’s end. But McInerney has only started one of Montreal’s five games in all competitions in 2015.
Porter’s injury may hand McInerney an opportunity to turn the spot into his own, but it upset him just as much as it did his other teammates. On Wednesday, McInerney praised Porter for seizing a chance in such spectacular fashion when it came. It’s up to him, now, to seize his, starting perhaps this Saturday when Orlando City are the visitors at the Olympic Stadium (4 pm ET, TSN3 in Canada, MLS LIVE in US).
“I never know what the coaching staff is thinking, obviously, with what’s happened before,” McInerney said. “Right now, I’m just practicing hard. If they call my name this weekend, then I’ve just got to go out there and prove myself. It’s just something that’s not in my hands right now. I’ve just got to do what I do and perform.”