The New England Revolution will soon receive back line reinforcement in the form of 23-year-old Sambinha, a loan player from Sporting CP.
Sambinha was most recently with Sporting's B-Team, serving as their captain throughout the 2015-16 season. He helped the club to five clean sheets while chipping in two goals in 21 appearances. He has also earned four caps for Guinea-Bissau.
To get a better understanding of the Revolution's new player, we spoke to Tiago Estêvão, who writes for Planeta Desportivo and OutsideoftheBoot.com. Tiago frequently watched Sambinha play for Sporting B.
The Bent Musket (TBM): What are Sambinha's strengths?
Tiago Estêvão (TE): As anyone is able to see from his impressive physical frame, Sambinha is indeed a really strong centre back. An aerial threat from corners and wide freekicks, the Portuguese-born got his name on the score sheet twice last season and once this one.
With some consistency on his play, he managed to be a part of Sporting B's team in 34 Segunda Liga matches last season with another 21 on this one. In this really physical competition, he ended up being relatively decent for the context that he was inserted in. In fact, in a B team squad that tends to be rotated often throughout the season, he was the player with most games played in the heart of the defence – with his partner rotating between Rabia, Tobias Figueiredo and Domingos Duarte. This shows adaptive capacity on his behalf, even more so when the different partners had such different styles of play and characteristics.
Despite being born in Portugal, the 23 year old is a four times senior international for Guinea Bissau – national team experience is always good for a relatively young player like him, and his campaign in the US might just help opening even more doors for the youngster national team wise.
TBM: What are Sambinha's weaknesses?
TE: Albeit physically impressive, Sambinha isn’t by any means a flawless player. Subpar passing wise and with the unfortunate characteristic to be quite a mistake prone player, it will be interesting to see how he will adapt to a league such as the MLS – with much higher pressure and offensive creativity than the Portuguese Segunda Liga. With that also comes his more aggressive side, being someone who tends to be yellowed often and even more so when exposed in higher intensity matches.
TBM: Do you see Sambinha as a starter for the Revolution? If so, where?
TE: Do not expect the youngster to be as complete as a player as someone like AJ Soares, for example. He shares a lot more common traits with Jose Gonçalves, but being less experienced ends up being more mistake prone. Not only that but their characteristics might just be too similar for the two Portuguese born to pair up at the back – Andrew Farrell will still most likely be, from my point of view, the starter besides José. In this long season, Jay Heaps will surely give everyone a shot to proof their worth though.
TBM: How would you describe his presence in the locker room?
TE: Sambinha’s locker-room presence has been really positive from an early age - captaining several youth sides in Portugal and always having a strong connection to his teammates. With the presence of Gonçalves in the team and the possibility of other Portuguese players making the jump Gillette Stadium due to the partnership with Sporting, I can see the 23 year old adapting relatively quick.
TBM: Who benefits the most from this loan?
TE: The main beneficiaries of the loan are both Sambinha himself and the Revs. The centre back wasn’t getting any main team action with Sporting and an experience in a foreign country, in a solid club, with a great coach, was exactly what he needed to try and achieve his potential.
It’s obviously also great for the Revolution because even if he ends up being unimpressive, it’s just a loan that ties the Guinean to the club, and even if he does impress chances are that deals will be done for him to stay for longer in the US. With several other options in the Sporting side and a profile that doesn’t quite match the coach’s criteria, the Lisbon based club will most likely negotiate with the Revolution without any issues.
We want to thank Tiago Estêvão for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to follow Tiago on Twitter (@TiagoEstv) for more insight about Sambinha and Sporting CP.