It’s been a long year for New England Revolution fans--and it’s not over yet--but one bright spot has been the play of Cristian Penilla. In fact, the Ecuadorian should be the team’s MVP.
Statistically, Penilla has been one of the Revolution’s best players, as he tops the team in scoring (11 goals) and is second in terms of helpers (six). Furthermore, the Revs are 3-0-5 when Penilla scores and 3-1-2 when he assists.
Penilla’s most deadly asset is his speed, which he uses to punish teams during transitional moments. Often times the Revs have used the high press to win the ball in good spots before quickly moving it to the left. Penilla will then push towards goal to finish the play. It’s a strategy that’s proven to be quite effective.
In fact, opponents always have to be aware of Penilla because he can change the game at a moment’s notice. If teams are effective at shutting down the left winger then the Revs’ attack sputters.
Even if he doesn’t end up on the score sheet, most Revolution wins can be linked back to Penilla. Consider the Revolution’s surprise 1-0 win over NYCFC on Sept. 5. Brian Wright scored the game’s only goal, but Penilla created the opportunity by forcing a save from Sean Johnson. Penilla almost replicated the play moments later when his long range shot nearly allowed Isaac Angking to score on a rebound.
In my mind, Penilla’s only competition for team MVP comes in the form of fellow newcomer Luis Caicedo. The defensive midfielder has been a workhorse, exerting energy on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he knows how and when to foul. Offensively, he makes creative and deadly late runs.
That said, this award belongs to Penilla. He’s an All-Star caliber player that would start on most, if not all, MLS teams. He should be awarded with this accolade, which should be followed up by a new contract.