Miracle at the Big O: MLS's most memorable CCL goal

Illustration by Derick Ramirez | @DoodlesbyDerick

In Spring 2015, the Montreal Impact set out to make history (Marquons l’Histoire!) and become the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League since the competition replaced the Champions’ Cup in 2008. In the quarterfinal round, Montreal faced off against a star-studded Pachuca team featuring Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez and Jurgen Damm.

A 2-2 opening leg provided a crucial pair of away goals for the Impact, who went down in the 80th minute of Leg 2, on a crushing penalty that left Montreal chasing a goal to advance as time ran short. Five minutes later, rookie forward Cameron Porter stepped on the field for his second professional appearance.

Porter describes the goal

“Pachuca were definitely on the attack. People were pretty worn down, and when that happens, generally the game gets more stretched. It was just opening up, and you end up seeing these gaps between defenders.

Calum Mallace collected the ball, and kind of shifted by one guy. If you know anything about Callum, he has an absolute rocket of a foot – the Scottish Hammer. I could see him looking up the field, and I knew I was fresher than their left back, so I made the run across his face. And I knew if Callum could actually get that ball played, I could be in on goal.

So I peeled off my defender and Callum just played what had to be one of the most perfect balls of all time – directly down the field 60 yards, right into my chest, into my run.

And at that point, you’re just back in the zone of where you where you’ve always been. Nigel Reo-Coker, who had played in big games all over the world, had told me, ‘You’re going to have opportunities. And really, what you have to do is just, when you get those opportunities, be prepared, be composed and do what you do every day.’ For me, it was like all those other times at Princeton or when I was younger: I got the ball and all I could see was scoring the goal.”

Porter on the aftermath

Teammates pile on Porter to celebrate his goal | USA Today Sports Images

“My mind exploded when it went in. I had no idea what I was doing, running down the field doing silly celebrations. And I’m very happy that my teammates decided to tackle me, so it could end the embarrassment that was that celebration. But it was obviously one of the most thrilling moments. You don’t often get to share special feelings with all these people that have been working hard with and 40,000 other crazy fans who have just gone an emotional rollercoaster with you. It’s a pretty once-in-a-lifetime experience that just takes a crazy set of factors.

Everyone was just coming up and hugging me. But I remember vividly Mauro Biello saying, ‘Careers are made of moments like this.’ Which is pretty special. It’s always cool when someone recognizes how special a moment is and can verbalize it in the moment.

Walking into the locker room, there’s just nothing better than the feeling that as a team, together, you’ve just worked hard and achieved something. I remember Laurent Ciman coming up to me, and just saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ over and over again. I remember Nigel coming up to me and telling me, ‘You know you can’t be treated like a rookie now.’

I love that city, I love the organization. It was a big part of my life, and hopefully it will continue to be that way. I think about going through life just collecting experiences, and that will always be one of the special ones.”

With a 3-3 aggregate score, Montreal advanced on away goals, going on to beat Costa Rica’s Alajuelense on away goals (4-4 aggregate), leading to a challenge against another Liga MX powerhouse, Club America, in the final. Though the Impact again managed an away draw in the opening leg (this time 1-1) and even took an aggregate lead in front of their home fans, America put up four goals after halftime to clinch a comeback victory. No MLS team has returned to the final since.

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