Penilla, 26, has extensive experience in Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.
He also featured twice for the Ecuadorian national team in 2014, including a friendly against the U.S.
“We believe Cristian is a player with the ability to immediately compete for a significant role in New England,” Revolution General Manager Michael Burns said. “His wealth of experience at a highly competitive level makes us feel Cristian will be a great asset to the club’s attack as we begin the 2018 season.”
The Revs acquired Penilla on a loan for this year with an option for 2019.
Burns said Penilla can play on either side of the pitch.
He is listed as both a forward and a midfielder.
Penilla was most recently playing in Brazil for Chapecoense of Serie A while on loan from Pachuca.
His eight-year, 200-game professional career includes time in Liga MX with Pachuca.
He will join the Revs when his international transfer certificate and visa are obtained, according to the team.