FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At the 2018 SuperDraft, the New England Revolution front office teased an imminent signing, an attacking player who’s pace and flair would offer something different than years past.
The Ecuadorian winger, on loan from Mexican side Pachuca, consistently threatened NYCFC's side and assisted Juan Agudelo’s go-ahead header in the 63rd minute. Teal Bunbury, a four-year veteran with the Revs, said that showing is par for the course for what typically transpires on the training ground.
“I think he’s bought in, and even though there’s a language barrier, he comes in and he works hard every day in training,” Bunbury said. “He wants to learn the philosophies and how we want to play. He’s super talented and in you can’t teach his speed.
“He’s good on the ball and fits in perfectly with the system and style we want to play,” Bunbury added. “He can open defenses, and that’s something throughout the season that’s going to be so important for us.”
Penilla also connected two key passes, and was inches from putting the Revs up 2-0 in the 39th minute, when his curled effort beat NYCFC ‘keeper Sean Johnson, only to be denied by the post.
The 26-year-old has only played a combined 188 of 270 possible minutes through three games, too, leading Scott Caldwell to think more is to come with Penilla.
“He’s performed on the field so far, and I know he has even more to show you guys,” Caldwell said. “He’s definitely been a bright spot and done very well.”
Penilla, who doesn’t speak English, has struck up an especially strong relationship with Diego Fagundez, who’s of Uruguayan heritage. Further, Penilla represents one example of how Targeted Allocation Money has resulted in a massive South American influx to MLS for the 2018 season.
Much like his teammates, Claude Dielna thinks Penilla’s best days are yet to come.
“He’s very quick and has so much quality for the team,” Dielna, the Revs’ captain, said. “Today we see only one part of him and hopefully in the next games, even more will show.”
For Bunbury, the most remarkable part of Penilla’s impact with the Revs is just how quickly he’s taken to MLS, a league where foreign imports sometimes struggle to adjust to the travel demands and physicality.
“It’s still early in the season and any change of scenery, whether it’s a new team, new city, new team takes time to get used to with the environment,” Bunbury said. “We’ve seen a lot of sparks from him, but on a more consistent basis we know it’ll be more.”