The New England Revolution have waived Samba, their first-ever loanee from club partner and Portuguese side Sporting CP, an anonymous source confirmed on Monday.
Samba, who the Revs originally took on loan back on Jan. 22, only made two appearances in the 2016 MLS regular season. He made a one-minute cameo appearance in a 2-0 home win against the Chicago Fire on May 14, only to start the following week in a 4-2 loss at the hands of FC Dallas on Gillette Stadium’s turf.
The 23-year-old did see time, however, in consecutive Open Cup victories, starting in the Round of 16 and quarterfinal versus the New York Cosmos and Philadelphia Union, respectively.
With Samba officially waived, the Revs’ roster contains six natural defenders in Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, London Woodberry, Andrew Farrell, Darrius Barnes and Jordan McCrary. JeVaughn Watson and Donnie Smith can play defense, but both have also slotted into various midfield positions.
With the defense already under-performing, losing depth seems like a curious move, at best. One possibility is that the Revs are looking ahead to the 2017 Expansion Draft when Minnesota United and Atlanta United enter the league. As a Portuguese international, Samba took up an international roster slot, and in 2014 teams were required to protect a certain number of internationals ahead of the Expansion Draft, dependent upon how many internationals were on their rosters. Having fewer internationals will mean greater flexibility in choosing who to protect.
The league has not confirmed the same rules or released new ones for the 2017 draft just yet, but it’s certainly possible that the Revs decided to hedge before the roster freeze. It's also important to note that New England, especially during the Burns/Jay Heaps era, has opted for American players and been extremely selective in signing foreign players.
One final element at play behind Samba being waived is the Revs have arguably never made the most of their partnership with Sporting CP. Samba featured prominently for his parent club’s reserve side, but never panned out in the United States.
Is there more the Revs can make of the partnership? Undoubtedly, especially as Samba was projected to offer valuable depth as New England challenged for elite status in the Eastern Conference. In the end, neither of those things have come true.