Opponent Watch: Costa Rica’s Roster and Depth Chart for November 2019 Friendly

For Sunday’s friendly against the United States Women’s National Team (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Costa Rica’s head coach, Amelia Valverde has called up 20 players, including 15 who recently won the Bronze Medal at this year’s Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru.  Among those medal-winners is US-based player. Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez of Sky Blue FC.  (Correction:  As of mid-September 2019 Gloriana Villalobos is no long on Florida State’s squad due to personal reasons. – Tallahassee Democrat article)

Update (10-Nov-2019):  Here is U.S. Soccer’s preview for the friendly, which includes notes on Costa Rica’s roster, apparently with updated cap and goal details for some of their veteran players.

Costa Rica has been very active since the international break for the Women’s World Cup, playing in the Pan-American Games in late July and early August, a two-match friendly tournament hosted by Brazil during the August/September international window, and two official matches during the October international window for CONCACAF Olympic Pre-Qualifying. 

With two solid victories over fellow Central American sides Nicaragua and El Salvador in those matches, Costa Rica qualified for next year’s CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, where they will be in Group A with the United States, Panama, and Haiti.  This friendly, which was announced in September, two months before last week’s group draw, is Costa Rica’s last international match before the qualification tournament.

For full details about the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, see: 2020 Olympic Qualifying: Draw Results, Schedule, and Venue Details.

Two notable absences are 26 year-old veteran defender Fabiola Sánchez, who suffered a hairline fracture of her fibula (“una fisura en el peroné”) in mid-September during a club match (Nacion.com), and 21 year-old forward Sofía Varela, who started four of Costa Rica’s five matches at the 2019 Pan-American Games.  No reason for Varela’s absence was given in Costa Rica’s write-up about their roster. (Searches via Google and Twitter have also failed to find any explanation for her absence.)

The injury to Sánchez leaves Costa Rica without an obvious back-up centerback, as she and the young Stephannie Blanco, alternated starting centerback duties next to 34 year-old backline anchor Carol Sánchez, who started all five matches for Las Ticas in this year’s Pan-Am Games, as well as both Olympic pre-qualifiers in October plus both friendlies in the prior international window.

Another player who is apparently still injured is veteran midfielder Cristin Granados, who missed the Pan-Am Games due to injury (Twitter).

Three players on this roster play for club teams in Europe: Melissa Herrera of Stade de Reims in France, plus Daniela Cruz and Katherine Alvarado of RCD Espanyol in Spain. The rest, except for the previously mentioned Raquel Rodriquez and Gloriana Villalobos, are based in Costa Rica.

Among those based in Costa Rica is Shirley Cruz, who spent twelve years in France, first with Olympique Lyonnais and then with PSG.  Her signing with CODEA Alajuelense last month marked the first domestic professional contract for a women’s soccer player in Costa Rica. (Nacion.com)

Two players are described as “new faces” by Valverde (and presumably uncapped): 18 year-old Valery Sandoval and Viviana Chinchilla, who turns 25 in December.  Sandoval was on the roster for the recent friendly tournament in Brazil, but did not play in either of Costa Rica’s matches.

Las Ticas‘ goalkeeper at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Dinnia Díaz, returns for her second-straight roster after missing over a year due to a tear in her left ACL. (ameliarueda.com)

Díaz’s injury meant that she was unavailable for last year’s CONCACAF qualification tournament for the Women’s World Cup.  Costa Rica finished a disappointing third in their group, behind Canada and Jamaica (Wikipedia), and were thus eliminated from earning a ticket to this year’s WWC.

Three veteran players from Costa Rica’s squad for that tournament (CONCACAF.com) have not featured recently for Las Ticas.  Most notably, defender Wendy Acosta, who played collegiately in Costa Rica and at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2016, after briefly playing in Spain, Acosta returned to Costa Rica for a job opportunity, but continued to play for her national team. (udgtenerife.com)  She is presumed to be retired.

Another player, Cristin Granados, who was mentioned earlier, is known to be (or at least has been recently) injured.  The third player, striker Maria Barrantes, is healthy and currently playing club soccer in Costa Rica (local article from October 25th).


Positions are based on a roster graphic for Costa Rica’s October roster (Twitter) that specifically noted the player positions as well as Costa Rica’s roster for the 2019 Pan-Am Games (PDF).  For new players, their position was inferred from their order in the current roster’s graphic.

Age as of the USWNT friendly (10-Nov-2019) is included in parentheses.

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Noelia Bermúdez (25.14)
  • Dinnia Díaz (31.82)
  • Priscila Tapia (28.53)

Defenders (7):

  • Stephannie Blanco (18.91)
  • María Paula Coto (21.69) <<< not listed in U.S. Soccer’s write-up
  • Daniela Cruz (28.68) – RCD Espanyol (ESP)
  • María Paula Elizondo (20.94)
  • Gabriella Guillén (27.69)
  • Lixy Rodríguez (29.02)
  • Carol Sánchez (33.57)

Midfielders (9):

  • Katherine Alvarado (28.58) – RCD Espanyol (ESP)
  • Mariana Benavides (24.87)
  • Priscilla Chinchilla (18.33)
  • Viviana Chinchilla (24.89)
  • Shirley Cruz (34.20) – recently signed with CODEA Alajuelense (CRC)
  • Melissa Herrera (23.08) – Stade de Reims (FRA)
  • Raquel Rodríguez (26.03) – Sky Blue FC (USA)
  • Valery Sandoval (18.30)
  • Gloriana Villalobos (20.22) – unattached

Forwards (1):

  • María Paula Salas (17.33)

Possible Additions:

  • María José Morales (Wikipedia) <<< listed in U.S. Soccer’s write-up

Explanations and Clarifications (Added 10-Nov-2019): 

  • María Paula Salas is the only confirmed primary “delantera” (forward), based on the two rosters noted above.
  • Gabriella Guillén, who is listed as a midfielder in U.S. Soccer’s write-up, is listed on Costa Rica’s October and Pan-Am Games rosters as a defender.  In recent matches, she has been listed on starting line-ups as a right midfielder (when Melissa Herrera was unavailable) and as a right outside back (with Herrera starting as right midfielder).  Either position classification is arguably correct for Guillén, who is perhaps best thought of as an “outside” player, rather than a backline defender or midfielder.
  • María Paula Coto is on Costa Rica’s original roster for this friendly, but is not listed in U.S. Soccer’s write-up.  Instead, María José Morales is listed as a midfielder.  Morales participated in the 2014 U-20 WWC, where she was listed as a defender (PDF).
  • U.S. Soccer’s write-up listed Mariana Benavides as a defender.  Of the nine-most recent matches, she has started three, all as a center midfielder, presumably in the most defensive role (“6”).


This first table shows how many starts and appearances a player has had during Costa Rica’s nine matches since late July, along with roster call-ups.  The table is sorted by position, then by the number of matches started (“S” column), then alphabetically by the player’s last name.  A few players not on the current roster (e.g., due to injuries) are included at the bottom for additional reference and comparative purposes.

Columns Legend:

  • Player – Last name, First name (shortened due to space)
  • P. – Position
  • Q – Named to the October International Window roster for Olympic Pre-Qualifying Matches (“Y” for  Yes, otherwise blank)
  • B – Named to the roster for the friendly tournament in Brazil (“Y” for  Yes, otherwise blank)
  • L – Named to the final Pan-American Games roster (“Y” for  Yes, otherwise blank)
  • M – Matches played during the Pan-Am Games and Olympic Pre-Qualifying
  • S – Matches started…
  • The next seven columns show whether the player started (“S”) the match or appeared as a substitute (“+”).  Column headers are the FIFA codes for the opponent: SLV – El Salvador, NCA – Nicarauga, PAR – Paraguay, COL – Colombia, ARG – Argentina, PER – Peru, and PAN – Panama

Table 1: Costa Rica Roster for USWNT Friendly – Recent Rosters and Matches Played

                   ROSTR | APPS | OLYPreQ | BRAZIL  | PAN-AMERICAN GAMES
Bermúdez, N.   GK  Y Y Y | 6  6 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  S       S
Tapia, P.      GK  Y Y Y | 3  3 |         |         |      S       S   S
Díaz, D.       GK  Y     | 0  0 |         |         | 
Sánchez, Car.  DF  Y Y Y | 9  9 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  S   S   S   S   S
Rodríguez, L.  DF  Y Y Y | 8  8 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  S   S       S   S
Cruz, Daniela  DF  Y   Y | 7  7 |  S   S  |         |  S   S   S   S   S
Guillén, G.    DF  Y Y Y | 8  7 |      +  |  S   S  |  S   S   S   S   S
Blanco, S.     DF  Y Y Y | 7  6 |  S   S  |  S      |      S   +   S   S
Elizondo, M.P. DF  Y Y Y | 3  2 |         |         |          S   S   +
Coto, M. P.    DF  Y     | 0  0 |         |         |
Cruz, Shirley  MF  Y Y Y | 9  9 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  S   S   S   S   S
Alvarado, K.   MF  Y   Y | 6  6 |  S   S  |         |  S   S       S   S
Rodríguez, R.  MF  Y Y Y | 8  6 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  +   S   S   +
Chinchilla, P. MF  Y Y Y | 8  5 |  S   S  |  S   S  |  S   +       +   +
Villalobos, G. MF  Y   Y | 7  5 |  +   S  |         |  S   S   +   S   S
Benavides, M.  MF  Y Y Y | 7  4 |  +      |  S   S  |  +   +   S       S
Herrera, M.    MF  Y Y   | 4  4 |  S   S  |  S   S  | 
Sandoval, V.   MF    Y   | 0  0 |         |         |
Chinchilla, V. MF        |      |         |         | 
Salas, M. P.   FW  Y Y Y | 9  4 |  S   +  |  +   S  |  S   +   S   +   +
Porras, M. P.  FW  Y Y   | 1  0 |         |      +  |
Varela, S.     FW  Y Y Y | 9  5 |  +   +  |  S   +  |  +   S   S   S   S
Del Campo, V.  MF    Y Y | 1  0 |         |         |          +
Sánchez, Fab.  DF    Y Y | 4  3 |         |  +   S  |  S       S

One recent roster not included in the above table is a “mini-camp” held during September which saw 25 players called up (Instagram).


Detailed statistics are readily available for the Pan-American Games.  Except for matches started, these are copied directly from an official PDF report.  Players are listed in the same order as the above table, except that blank entries (players who were not on the Pan-Am roster) have been removed.

Columns Legend:

  • Player (last name, first name)
  • P. – Position
  • M – Matches Started (during the Pan Am Games)
  • MIN – Minutes played (480 maximum, one match went to extra time)
  • G – Goals Scored
  • SoG – Shots on Goal
  • S – Total Shots
  • FC – Fouls Committed
  • FS – Fouls Suffered
  • YC – Yellow Cards received
  • (no players received a direct or indirect red card)

Table 2: Costa Rica Roster – Pan-Am Games Statistics

PLAYER                 P.   M    MIN | G  SoG S | FC  FS  YC
Bermúdez, Noelia       GK   2    180 |          |      1
Tapia, Priscila        GK   3    300 |          | 
Sánchez, Carol         DF   5    480 | 3  3   4 |      1
Rodríguez, Lixy        DF   4    390 |    2   2 |  3       2
Cruz, Daniela          DF   5    475 | 1  1   2 |  5   6
Guillén, Gabriella     DF   5    446 |    3   6 |  6   3
Blanco, Stephannie     DF   3    311 | 1  1   1 |  2   2   1
Elizondo, María Paula  DF   2    136 |    1   2 |  2   1
Cruz, Shirley          MF   5    397 |    1   3 |  7   7
Alvarado, Katherine    MF   4    390 |    0   1 |  4   1   1
Rodríguez, Raquel      MF   2    258 | 2  3   4 |  6   9
Chinchilla, Priscilla  MF   1    218 | 2  4   5 |  6   3   1
Villalobos, Gloriana   MF   4    409 |    2   2 |  5  13
Benavides, Mariana     MF   2    177 |    0   2 |  1   3   1
Salas, María Paula     FW   2    239 | 1  5   7 |  1   2
Varela, Sofia          FW   4    289 |    2   4 |  1   7
Del Campo, Valeria     MF   0    5   |          |
Sánchez, Fabiola       DF   2    180 |    2   3 |  2   1



Based on Costa Rica’s social media posting of their team’s starting line-ups for their last nine matches (2 for Olympic pre-qualifying, 2 friendlies, and 5 Pan-Am Games matches), Costa Rica describes its formation as 4-4-1-1, with only the final “1” listed as a forward (delantera).  The Twitter tweets with the graphical line-ups for these nine matches are embedded at the bottom of this article.

How a numerical formation translates from on-paper to on-the-field is a product of numerous factors, such as (1) the coach’s tactical instructions to individual player, (2), the playing personalities of the athletes on the pitch, and (3) the opposing competition.

Another way to think about this formation is to consider it a defensive 4-5-1, while offensively it might look closer to a USA-style 4-3-3, with the outside midfielders becoming outside forward and the three central midfielders, having the “6”, “8”, and “10” roles.

The following is Costa Rica’s first-choice line-up based on which players have been listed most frequently in the specific starting position for the nine-most recent matches.  In cases of ties, such as Herrera and Guillen in the right midfielder spot (4 starts each), the player with the more recent starting selections has been chosen.

D. Cruz (1) – C. Sanchez (3) – Blanco (1) – L. Rodriguez
Herrera (1) – Alvarado – R. Rodriguez (4) – P. Chinchilla (6)
S. Cruz
Salas (3)

The numbers in parentheses in the above formation show how many goals each player has scored in the recent nine matches. Priscilla Chinchilla, who is on a three-game goal-scoring streak, leads the team in recent goals with 6, including 4 goals in that three-game stretch.

Although Valverde has been fairly consistent in choosing her starting line-ups, several variation have been used, whether due to injuries, resting players, or for tactical reasons. For example, Shirley Cruz, who is typically the deeper “1” in Costa Rica’s 4-4-1-1 formation, has sometimes been listed as center midfielder with Gloriana Villalobos as the deep “1”.

Depth List:

  • Goalkeepers: Bermudez, Tapia
  • Right Outside Back: D. Cruz, Guillen
  • Left Outside Back: L. Rodriguez, Elizondo
  • Centerbacks: C. Sanchez, Blanco, F. Sanchez
  • Right Midfielder: Herrera*, Guillen, Varela
  • Center Midfielder #1: Alvarado, Benavides
  • Center Midfielder #2: R. Rodriguez, S. Cruz, G. Villalobos
  • Left Midfielder: P. Chinchilla, G. Villalobos, Guillen, L. Rodriguez
  • Attacking Midfielder: S. Cruz, G. Villalobos
  • Center Forward: Varela, Salas, R. Rodriguez

In the above list, players not available have been included for reference.  Their names are shown as italicized and crossed-out (strikethrough). Players who do not have any starts in recent matches, such as goalkeeper Dinnia Díaz, are not listed.

*Melissa Hererra missed the Pan-Am Games due to an injury (Twitter). Guillen started four matches during that tournament, while Hererra has started all four since, including the two Olympic pre-qualifiers.


Line-up vs. El Salvador (Olympic Pre-Qualifying)
5-nil victory for Costa Rica
R. Rodriguez (2), Salas, P. Chinchilla, Varela

Line-up vs. Nicaragua (Olympic Pre-Qualifying)
2-nil victory for Costa Rica
P. Chinchilla, Salas

Line-up vs. Argentina (friendly)
3-1 victory for Costa Rica
P. Chinchilla (2), M. Herrera

Line-up vs. Chile (Friendly)
0-1 loss for Costa Rica

Pan-Am Games (Bronze) – Line-up vs. Paraguay
1-o victory for Costa Rica
D. Cruz

Pan-Am Games (Semifinal) – Line-Up vs. Colombia
3-4 loss (a.e.t.)
C. Sanchez (2), Salas

Pan-Am Games – Line-Up vs. Argentina
0-0 draw

Pan-Am Games (Group) – Line-up vs. Peru
3-1 victory for Costa Rica
C. Sanchez, R. Rodriguez (2)

Pan-Am Games (Group) – Line-up vs. Panama
3-1 victory for Costa Rica
P. Chinchilla (2), Blanco

Notable:  Raquel Rodriguez was not listed as a substitute on this line-up graphic.

Additional Resources:

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