Although she’s been a standout soccer player for the Pennington School, East Windsor native Megan Porras had never considered playing international soccer.
Until she got a call from Walter Bustamante, a retired American soccer midfielder who played professionally and then opened the Walter Bustamante Soccer Academy.
Bustamante had been impressed with Porras’ soccer skills and had spoken with coaches of the Peruvian national soccer team about getting Porras a tryout. Born in the United States to Peruvian and Dominican parents, Porras holds citizenship in all three countries, making her eligible to play for Peru.
So she traveled to Peru just before Christmas last year to try out for the team. And it went well. Porras was told before she left to come home that she had indeed made the women’s under-20 squad.
“When I first heard from Walter, I was in complete shock,” said Porras. Initially though, it didn’t fully sink in to her that she had made the team.
“I never really thought about playing internationally until I got the call from the recruiter, but then I realized what an amazing opportunity it was going to be,” she said.
That opportunity for Porras began Jan. 13 with the CONMEBOL South American Championships in Ecuador. Ten teams from South America, divided into two groups, competed for two spots in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup to be held in France Aug. 5 through Aug. 24.
Prior to her departure, Porras had high expectations for the tournament and the overall experience.
“Of course it’s a great experience to play at such a high level, but there are other things that I am looking forward to,” said Porras. “The girls are amazing. When I traveled to Peru, I was really nervous because I understand Spanish perfectly, but speaking it seems to be a little bit of a challenge. So I was nervous to be in an environment where I was forced to speak. But my Spanish improved so much and I love that.
“Traveling to Ecuador has been a great experience as well,” she said. “The scenery is gorgeous and it’s really different from the States.”
The Peruvian team played Argentina on Jan. 15, Colombia on Jan. 17, Paraguay on Jan. 19 and Ecuador on Jan. 21, but did advance to the second round.
Porras started three of the four games for Peru, but was forced to sit out the final game after suffering a collision in the third game.
She has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old and according to Porras, the Pennington girls’ soccer team is like a second family to her. This season, she was named one of the team’s captains.
But the international soccer experience was one that she’ll always cherish.
“Overall, this was an amazing experience for me,” said Porras. “Not only as a soccer player but as an American-Peruvian girl.”
Source: Central Jersey