By Jovanni Arroyo-Camberos:
Many people dream of following the footsteps of their idols; for Enrique Montano that meant to accomplish the almost impossible — play soccer professionally.
Montano, a defender for Sacramento Republic FC and a former San Jose State men’s soccer player, was born on May 25, 1993 in Salinas, California where he began to take his first steps toward his dream of becoming a professional.
“I grew up in a family where we would watch Chivas play every Sunday and I always thought it would be cool to be a professional soccer player,” Montano said.
Dedicated to his craft, Montano’s hard work started to payoff and led to three Tri-County League Championships with Alisal High School in Salinas.
After graduating in 2011, he moved on to play at Hartnell Community College just a few miles west of where he played in high school.
At Hartnell, Montano won the Coast Conference Championship and reached the state final. The team also finished ranked second in California.
“The whole process of being at Hartnell prepared me for big stages,” Montano said. “Honestly it’s never a single game, it’s always the process and being at Hartnell with great coaches helped me with what I’m doing now.”
After the 2011 season, Montano played three seasons at SJSU, with his first two season being under coach Gary St. Clair and his final under coach Simon Tobin.
He played 53 games for the Spartans and was named the 2012 Coach’s Award winner.
“I think that the coaches that I had there [at SJSU] helped me out during my transition from training at the collegiate level to go and play professional, so they did a good job at preparing me at San Jose,” Montano said.
Although Montano had some early success during his career, he quickly found out that it was not going to be a cakewalk after college.
“After my last season at San Jose State, I trained for two months and then I went to a combine in Ventura and Sac Republic, Cosmos and a few other teams [were there],” Montano said. “I didn’t get any calls so I came back and I had to train for another month.”
After not receiving any calls after the combine, Montano’s dream seemed to be ending, however he said he remained optimistic.
“After that Ventura combine I was like, ‘ well yeah I probably shouldn’t play anymore,’ but I kept training and eventually the tryout in Louisville happened … and that was a quick turn-around,” Montano said.
Montano signed his first professional contract in 2015 for Louisville City FC. He played two seasons with the team.
During his first season with Louisville, Montano did not appear in the first five games, but he started the remaining 14.
As time passed, things looked like they were going well for Montano at Louisville City FC. The team had qualified for the 2015 playoffs in its inaugural season and finished second in the Eastern Conference standings.
However, Montano did not play a playoff game for Louisville and only played five games total in his second season.
“There were a lot of downs than ups,” Montano said. “I think it made me stronger mentally because regardless of what happened I kept training hard and I kept trying to become the best I could and now thanks to that I can definitely say that I grew mentally more than anything.”
For Montano, it was never a clear path to becoming a professional soccer player.
“There’s been a lot of challenges, I think some of the most devastating ones have been just my injuries through my entire soccer career,” Montano said. “I sprained both my ankles twice, [I have] torn my ligaments in my right ankle twice, my hip flexor, I’ve had three concussions already and at any given point during those injuries I could have said, ‘yeah this is not for me.’”
After his short stint with Louisville City FC, Montano signed with Sacramento Republic FC in November.
“It’s been a great one [journey], this is what I’ve been working for and it’s finally here so now I just got to keep working and get ready for the beginning of the season.”
The journey to the top continues for Montano as he prepares for his third season as a professional soccer player. His will to keep fighting through the struggles will always allow himself the chance to succeed.