HELENA — When Doug Mello helped create the Carroll College men’s soccer program five years ago, he knew he had to find players that could help set the standard of what was to come.
There were many, but one has stood out.
Now, on the eve of what could be his final game when the Saints face Corban University in the first round of the Cascade Collegiate Conference Tournament, senior forward Jose Porras doesn’t want to hold anything back.
“In my mind, I have to give it my best,” he said.
Porras was born and raised in Guatemala City. By the age of 4, soccer was more than a sport. Although he played other sports, like baseball and golf, he always put his true love first.
When Porras got older, he joined Futeca Soccer Club and got his first look at the United States playing tournaments in Cleveland, San Diego and Las Vegas.
He always had a dream of getting a scholarship to play college soccer, and it didn’t become a reality until the day he met Mello.
“I have a friend who was involved with Futeca and got some of my players at my previous colleges through there,” Mello said. “I go down there and train them. For me, it was a simple thought process. Jose was the best player coming out of Guatemala in that age group and I was starting a new program.”
Porras ended up being one of the first players Mello recruited, but it wasn’t an immediate decision.
Other Division I schools and Division II Montana State-Billings offered him scholarships, but he ended up packing his bags, grabbing a warm coat and preparing to play the next four years as a Saint.
“I don’t know, I guess it was fate, if you want to put it that way,” Porras said. “This is a program that fits for me both academically and athletically.”
While he has visited other warmer cities around the United States, he didn’t know much about Montana.
“All I knew was that it was cold,” Porras said with a smile.
During Porras’ freshman season, he led the Saints with 12 goals, but the next year he was moved back to midfielder because of a knee injury.
“Although he played well for us, he was playing out of his natural position,” Mello said.
Porras said that he has had trouble with his left knee locking up ever since he was a boy, but after forgoing surgery and resting the summer before his senior season, he moved back to forward. After all, he wears the same number and does model his game after Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I love battling for balls and putting the ball in the back of the net,” Porras said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
This year he returned to form as he finished the regular season leading the Saints with 11 goals. He ranks tied for third in the Cascade with 26 points and will finish as the school’s all-time points leader.
“Jose has a very good work ethic and is used to facing tough competition,’ Mello said. “He is a team-oriented player and leads by example.”
The Saints’ primary focus last week was on No. 16 Corban, but whether they stun the field with an upset or lose in the first round, Mello now knows what he is looking for when he heads back down to South America.
“(Jose) was very vital to the program’s success,” Mello said. “I just hope when I go down to Guatemala this next year I can find another Jose Porras.”