FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Cristian Penilla and Juan Fernando Caicedo both began Saturday night’s meeting with the New York Red Bulls on the New England Revolution bench, watching the match unfold from the sidelines and patiently waiting for an opportunity to influence the proceedings.
That opportunity came in the second half, and when it did, they both grasped hold of it.
J. Caicedo played provider by notching his first MLS assist as he sprung Penilla down the right wing, and last year’s leading scorer got off the mark in 2019 with a smooth finish from a tight angle, earning the Revs a much-needed 1-0 win in front of 14,514 hearty fans who braved nasty weather in Foxborough.
“That’s how important substitutions are,” said captain Michael Mancienne, who returned from suspension to backstop the Revs to their first clean sheet of the season. “Everyone needs to be ready on the bench, and mentally prepared to come in the game and make a difference, and potentially change the game for us.
“That happened tonight, and I’m really happy for Penilla, as well. He deserved the goal.”
Penilla has had something of a rollercoaster start to 2019. The Ecuadoran winger started all 33 matches for which he was available last year – his first in New England – but he’s been in and out of the lineup through the season’s first eight games, starting four and coming off the bench in three others.
The 27-year-old speedster’s work rate has never wavered, however, and Penilla knew that he’d eventually be called upon to make a difference at a crucial moment.
“I wasn’t frustrated at all,” Penilla said through an interpreter. “I’m a professional, waiting patiently for my time to come. The coach decided today that I start on the bench. He brought me into the game, and I will continue to work hard. Whenever I’m called upon, I’ll do the best that I can to help the team get three points.”
Penilla’s pace was the perfect antidote to Saturday night’s scrappy encounter, as he made use of his chance to run at a tired Red Bulls’ backline as spaces began to open up early in the second half.
“From [the bench], I could tell there were a lot of spaces,” Penilla said. “Coach (Brad) Friedel read the game really well, and decided to bring me into the game. I was lucky to get the ball, get into the run, and score.”
“I thought the game, at that time, was perfect because it had stretched out a little bit for Penilla’s pace,” added Friedel.
While Penilla came on in the 71st minute – scoring just two minutes later – J. Caicedo was New England’s first substitute in the 60th minute, and he did precisely what Friedel had asked of him, receiving a pass from Carles Gil and springing the pacey Penilla down the wing.
“This was a different game against New York Red Bulls – one that he hadn’t seen before in this league,” Friedel said of J. Caicedo, who’d started the previous two matches. “We knew that there was going to be a lot of direct play, so when he did come on, we wanted him to try to hold the ball.”
It was obvious what the goal meant to both Penilla and J. Caicedo, who’ll now push for places in the starting XI as the Revs close their three-game homestand – and continue a stretch of eight games in 29 days – against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night.
“Luckily, we were able to get the ball and score the goal (tonight),” J. Caicedo said through an interpreter. “We want to dedicate that (victory) to the fans who came out today. We needed that win, and good for the team, we got it today.”