NWSL: OL Reign sign Costa Rican captain Shirley Cruz

Shirley Cruz NWSL
Houston, Texas — Jan 28: Shirley Cruz #10 of Costa Rica watches the ball during a game between Costa Rica and Panama at BBVA Stadium on January 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Tacoma, Washington — Shirley Cruz is now reunited with her former European coach. The Costa Rican women’s national team captain has signed with OL Reign, reuniting her with Farid Benstiti. Details of the deal, including how long her signing is for, were announced by the club.

Benstiti coached Cruz two different times in Europe. The first encounter between the two came at Olympique Lyonnais. Benstiti coached Lyon from 2001-10, and Cruz joined the team in 2005. Meanwhile, Cruz had over 100 appearances with Lyon, scoring 24 goals. She won two UEFA Women’s Champions League titles with Lyon in 2011 and 2012.

Cruz remained with Lyon until 2012. Then, she joined Benstiti again with Paris Saint-Germain in 2012. Cruz stayed in Paris until 2018, making 91 appearances for the club.

After her time in Europe, Cruz journeyed to China to feature for Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese FA. Cruz helped her Asian-based club win the Chinese FA Cup and Regional Cup in 2018.

Cruz spent one year in China before returning to Costa Rica. There, she signed with Liga Deportiva Alajuelense. Cruz and LDA captured the First Women’s Division of Costa Rica title last year.

Benstiti said he’s happy to be working again with Cruz.

“I have worked for many years with Shirley and know she is a special player,” Benstiti said. “In addition to her quality she will bring a footballers’ mind and leadership on the pitch.”

From Costa Rica to Tacoma

Internationally, Cruz is creeping up on a century of appearances for Costa Rica. The longtime captain of the national team, Cruz has 78 appearances for La Sele. Born in the capital of San José, Cruz wanted to return home to help build the women’s league in Costa Rica. Now, she’s heading to the U.S. to reunite with an old coach.

In her announcement, Cruz called the NWSL a competitive league and said she’s excited to be part of a great team in OL Reign.

“I will try to do my best to achieve the goals of the team,” Cruz said. “It will be a pleasure for me, playing next to great players and a coach that knows me well and knows how to bring out the best in his players. Farid Is a coach with great experience—he has won in lots of leagues, in several countries. He will demand a very technical but physical style of play. I have no doubt he will bring out the best in all of us.”

Cruz’ signing and move to the NWSL now signals two players who are Costa Rican in the league. Raquel Rodriguez was drafted by Sky Blue FC in 2016, but now features for the Portland Thorns FC. Cruz and Rodriguez are the only two Costa Ricans to ever feature in the NWSL.

The start of the NWSL season is currently in limbo with the COVID-19 virus making its way around the United States. Right now, the NWSL has cancelled all preseason activities until March 22. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended cancelling events with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. Meanwhile, the NWSL season is slated to begin on April 18-19.

 

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