Cristian Penilla
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Speedy, versatile Penilla brought to New England to “unlock some defenses”

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution continued to address their list of offseason needs on Tuesday morning, officially announcing the signing of 26-year-old winger Cristian Penilla.

Penilla, who arrives on loan from Liga MX side Pachuca with the Revs holding a purchase option at the end of the season, has the versatility to play on either wing or as a second forward, and the Ecuador international brings one specific trait that attracted the Revolution’s technical staff.

“When people see him play, I think the first thing that’s going to jump out is his speed,” said Revolution General Manager Michael Burns. “It’s one thing that (head coach) Brad (Friedel) and the coaching staff wanted; we wanted to add a little bit of speed. We have some speed, but you can never have enough.”

In that regard, Penilla brings a unique element to New England’s dynamic attacking corps, which includes a variety of different skillsets with the likes of Juan Agudelo, Isaac Angking, Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, Krisztián Németh, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe.

“He can hopefully unlock some defenses, whether it’s scoring or setting up,” Burns said of Penilla, who most recently featured for Brazilian side Chapecoense on a loan spell. “He’s a creative player.”

Like fellow international offseason signings Gabriel Somi (26) and Wilfried Zahibo (24), Penilla is a player in the prime of his career, and New England have specifically targeted players in their early-to-mid-20s as Friedel aims to form a squad he can build around for years to come.

Somi’s P-1 Visa has been approved and the Revs hope to bring him into camp within the next week. That process might take a bit longer with Zahibo, but there’s optimism that he’ll be able to join the Revs at some point during their stay in Bradenton, Fla., which runs from January 26 to February 7.

Penilla, meanwhile, was on the field with the Revs for their first training session of the year on Tuesday in Foxborough, and he’ll travel with the team to Bradenton on Friday as the club hopes to complete his visa paperwork in the United States.

“Cristian is a very exciting attacking player,” said Friedel, noting that Penilla often features on the left and cuts inside to his favored right foot. “He possesses an incredible amount of pace. He really does. We’re lucky to have him here.

“He has to fight for his place, just like anybody else does on the team, but he’ll add another dimension on the attacking front, for sure.”