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Player Profile: Shirley Cruz (OLR)

Nationality: Costa Rican

Birthday/Age: 28th August 1985 / 34 years old

Height: 163 cms / 5ft 5 inches

Cruz is making her NWSL debut for OL Reign in the Challenge Cup. She hails from Costa Rica and is the captain of her national team. She's without a doubt, the most successful and famous Costa Rican women's footballer.

The bulk of her professional career has been played in France for the two powerhouses, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and Paris Saint Germaine (PSG). In her seven years with OL from 05-12, they won six consecutive league titles, two French Cups and two Champions League titles.

She moved to PSG in 2012 and had six years there, being runners up in the Champions League twice as well as runners up in the league almost every year, behind OL. She was playing at PSG at the same time that Lindsay Horan and Tobin Heath were there and is good friends with both of them. During this time at PSG, she was nominated for 2015 Player of the Year alongside Hegerberg and Majri.

2018 saw her move to China and play for Jiangsu Suning and she led this team to win the Chinese FA Cup and the Regional Cup. Last year she returned home to Costa Rica and joined Alajvelense in the women's first division which they won.

Costa Rica is part of CONCACAF so getting to a world cup is no easy feat, competing with USA, Canada and Mexico for a berth. Cruz captained Costa Rica for their first and only Women's World Cup in 2015. They didn't leave the group stage after two draws and a loss.

In 2019 she had the honour of being Costa Rica's flag bearer at the Pan American games in Lima and the women's football team won bronze.

The most interesting thing about Cruz joining OL Reign is the long relationship she has with the new head coach, Farid Benstiti. He was her coach at both OL and PSG so they have worked together for many years and Benstiti thinks she is a special player and is happy to be working with her again. This bodes well for the team as there's been some rumblings as to his style and suitability for an American team. Cruz should be able to act as liaison between manager and teammates.

She's a midfielder with a strong defensive game, being a great protector of the ball. She's also racked up plenty of both assists and goals over her career and is rightly regarded as one of the best players in the world although is nearing the end of her football career now. Saying that, she's still fit and has plenty to offer in the way of skills and experience to OL Reign this season. With Fishlock returning as well, OL Reign could do surprisingly well during this cup.

By Kris Goman

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