Rumors from Costa Rica which we reported on yesterday proved to be correct, as OL Reign announced today that Costa Rica international Shirley Cruz has signed for the 2020 NWSL season. Cruz will be reunited with head coach Farid Benstiti, under whom she played at Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain.
“I have worked for many years with Shirley and know she is a special player,” said Benstiti in a team release. “In addition to her quality she will bring a footballers’ mind and leadership on the pitch. I am very happy to be working with Shirley again.”
Cruz is a trailblazer for women’s soccer in Costa Rica, being one of the pioneers in Costa Rican women’s soccer to play abroad, joining Olympique Lyonnais in 2005. Her time there, under Benstiti, saw her collect quite the haul of silverware. Six league (Division 1 Féminine) titles, two French cup (Coupe de France Féminine) titles, and two UEFA Women’s Champions League medals. After her time in France she spent 2018 in China with Jiangsu, where she won the Chinese FA Cup and the Regional Cup, followed by a 2019 season in Costa Rica with Alajuelense, where she helped lead the club to the top of the Women’s FIrst Division. On the international front, Cruz has captained Costa Rica’s national team for many years.
With Jess Fishlock still working her way back to full match fitness as she recovers from an ACL tear sustained last June, Cruz could occupy a spot in the midfield along with some combination of Allie Long, Rosie White, Morgan Andrews, Rebecca Quinn. Her familiarity with Benstiti’s coaching style and game plan should also help ease her transition to the side and bridge the communication on the field as another veteran presence, while OL Reign continue the youth movement.
“I will try to do my best to achieve the goals of the team. 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,” said Cruz in the team release.
Cruz’s signing puts the club over their current allotment of international slots, but teams do not need to be compliant until one week before opening day, leaving plenty of time to resolve the issue. As mentioned in yesterday’s story, there are multiple potential routes by which they could become compliant: trade for an extra slot, trade or waive another international player, obtain a green card for a current international player, or if Rebecca Quinn becomes a federation player for Canada.
With sports currently on hold around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be a while before fans get to witness in person what Cruz can bring to the squad. For now, we’ll have to pass the time with some highlight videos.