FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution made Nicolas Firmino the fifth Homegrown signing in club history for one reason, and one reason only: the staff believes that the 17-year-old midfielder has what it takes to make an impact at the professional level.
That’s been the Revolution’s philosophy since day one with their Academy, which launched in 2008. They’ve been selective in their approach to Homegrown signings, only offering professional deals to those players they’re confident will eventually play significant minutes for the first team.
In short, they don’t take flyers on their Academy products.
“We don’t sign hundreds of players,” said Director of Youth Development Bryan Scales, now in his 10th year with the Revolution. “We sign players that we feel can make an impact on the first team. We feel that [Firmino] can make an impact on the first team, so we’re excited.”
It’s an approach that has landed the Revolution five Homegrown signings, a relatively modest figure and a fraction of the league-leading 23 Homegrown signings that FC Dallas have made. But while 15 of those Homegrown Players are no longer with FCD, all five of the Revs’ Academy signings remain with the club.
Diego Fagundez (2010) and Scott Caldwell (2012) have been two of the more successful Homegrown signings in MLS history, as the duo were the first Homegrown field players to break the 10,000-minutes-played barrier back in 2017. They’ve combined to make more than 400 appearances for the Revs.
Zach Herivaux (2015) broke into the Revs’ starting XI late this past season while simultaneously becoming a key contributor with the Haiti National Team, and 18-year-old Isaac Angking (2018) built off his first MLS minutes by playing a vital role with the U.S. U-20s at the Concacaf Championship earlier this month.
Firmino now joins that group after proving himself not only with the Academy, but also with the first team, having joined the Revolution’s preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona, this past February before training with the squad throughout the summer months.
While previous years saw one or two Academy players join the Revs’ first-team preseason camp in Arizona that number jumped to five for the 2018 season, including Firmino. That’s a product of the Academy’s growth, and that evolution may well lead to more Homegrown signings moving forward.
The hope, of course, is that the recent signings of Angking and Firmino are a signal of what’s on the horizon for the Revolution Academy, which after a decade of progress is now beginning to see the results of grooming young players into full-fledged professionals.
“We’re 10 years into this,” said Scales. “We’re planting a garden, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of that. It’s happened over the course of this decade that you have guys like Isaac and Firm and a number of other guys that are progressing to the point where you can see that they’re almost ready.
“We hope that over the next 10 years that there’ll be four, five, six, seven, eight more guys so that (head coach) Brad (Friedel) can use these guys to make an impact on the field on Saturday nights.”