New England Soccer Today

Heaps: Sporting CP Trip was ‘Eye-Opening’

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Revolution coach Jay Heaps can appreciate the game of soccer from a range of different perspectives, whether as a player, a broadcaster, or a head coach. But his recent trip to Lisbon to visit Sporting Clube de Portugal was something different entirely for him.

Heaps, who traveled with Revolution general manager Michael Burns to meet with the club’s Portuguese Liga affiliate in November, was able to see first-hand the inner workings of one of the most reputable clubs in Europe.

“I was able to watch training sessions, and learn from how they not only do things at the academy level, but how they do things with their B team, and with the first team,” Heaps said. “And that was a real eye-opening experience, because it was full access to a club that is pretty successful.”

Heaps and Burns spent 10 days in Lisbon meeting with the Sporting’s braintrust, with both sides looking for ways to strengthen the strategic partnership they forged in Oct. 2014. To wit, the Revolution contingent included midfielders Donnie Smith and Zachary Herivaux, along with forward Sean Okoli, and the trio of players participated in a three-week training stint with the first team.

But for Heaps and Burns, the goal of trip wasn’t just about exchanging pleasantries, or giving some of their younger players the opportunity to train under renowned Sporting coach Jorge Jesus.

“For us, it was getting over there to look for a player, or two, or three, that would come over and help us,” Heaps said. “And also to continue to develop that relationship.”

Less than two months after they returned from Lisbon, the first fruits of that trip were realized when the Revolution acquired Sporting B center back Sambinha via loan on Friday. Sambinha, a 23-year-old Guinea Bissau international, will join the local outfit upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 Visa.

“We’re excited in Sambinha in that he was a player that we actually scouted before we went there,” Heaps said. “We wanted to get a player that was on the B team and had possibly played some (first) team minutes, and (the question was) could we get him here? It really worked out well.”

With Sambinha on board, there’s reason to believe that the Revolution have tapped into a talent-rich pipeline that could yield more promising prospects direct from Lisbon.

“We went over there, and it was good,” Heaps said of the trip. “They’re one of the biggest clubs in the world, and one of the most successful.”

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