FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution head coach Brad Friedel has hinted at big plans in the works for the 2019 season. As his first campaign concluded, he continually conveyed to the players that they were fighting for their jobs looking ahead to next year.
These moves for the upcoming campaign have officially started, and two players who have unquestionably earned their spots back on the roster are Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo – both of whom had been on year-long loans from Liga MX side Pachuca and Colombian club Cortuluá, respectively. As the Revs start the offseason, the club’s first formal move, unsurprisingly, was bringing both of these key pieces back by exercising their transfer options.
“There was no negotiation to take place now for exercising – [transfer fees] were already in place from a year ago,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “We had a decision to make whether or not to exercise them, and they were two of the easier decisions we probably had to make this offseason.”
Penilla’s impact on the pitch speaks through his stats alone. Racking up a total of 12 goals – which tied for third-most from any MLS newcomer this year – and seven assists combined with his pace and agility earned him the attention of both the supporters and his teammates.
On top of being the team’s leading goal scorer and Golden Boot Award winner, Penilla earned a trio of additional Revolution honors, including the 2018 JetBlue Team MVP award as voted on by the fans. His teammates also selected him as the Players’ Player of the Year, and the Midnight Riders honored him through their supporters’ award called Man of the Year.
With this list of accomplishments and a year with the Revs under his belt, the 27-year-old feels he has settled into New England and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“I’m very happy,” said Penilla. “It’s been very easy. Thanks to God, I’ve had the opportunity to come here. Everything’s been really good and I think, thanks to the effort from my teammates and the technical staff, I’ve done really well this season.”
Caicedo, meanwhile, was a central focus of the Revolution midfield. The 22-year-old has a quickness and anticipation that allows him to track back and dispossess, rapidly covering ground all over the pitch. While Caicedo totaled one goal and four assists, his ability to force turnovers and race to loose balls was what really made him stand out.
“They’re two guys that were solid contributors for us on the field,” said Burns. “They both have a little ways to go in terms of their English off the field, on the field, but that’s coming … Now that they have a year under their belt, we’re excited to have them back next year on a permanent basis.”
While the offseason is merely days old, the Revs will continue to press forward as they build their foundation for the 2019 campaign. Based on their first years playing in MLS, both Penilla and Caicedo appear to have bright futures in New England.