Top 20 Players for Costa Rica 1.0

Welcome to the first edition of the top 20 players who represent Costa Rica. I intended to make this a top 25, but 20 seemed like the perfect cutoff to make it controversial. This will be a quarterly project, allowing players three months to move up and down the rankings.

Because if there’s anything professional athletes care about, it’s the dumb shit I have to write.

All players are judged on three important categories:

  1. Current Form – this includes recent performance and minutes played
  2. Club Impact – how important is your presence at your club
  3. Potential – what you’re projected to be based on current trajectory

There are no points for time served. What you did five years ago is irrelevant. The World Cup is less than two years away. It’s time to focus on the now.

1. Keylor Navas, GK, PSG
Forget Costa Rica, Keylor Navas still belongs at the top of the list for all of CONCACAF. If you let me FANBOY enough, I’ll put him at the top of the list for all goalkeepers.

Don’t @ me.
2. Joel Campbell, F, Leon
Everyone knows how talented Joel Campbell is, and by everyone, I mean everyone except Arsene Wenger and the idiots running Arsenal into the ground. The problem is you never know if he’s going to start for Leon. When he does, he’s a problem.

Just ask Chivas.
3. Randall Leal, Winger, Nashville SC
I love to say “I told you so.” I love it more when it’s about Randall Leal. Just imagine what he can do when he finally gets to play in a system that promotes soccer.
He’s not even close to reaching his ceiling.

4. Manfred Ugalde. F, Lommel SK
At one point, and this will prove how fickle Ticos are, Manfred Ugalde was overrated and Jurgens Montenegro was superior because he was scoring goals with Jicaral. ESPN FC “analyst” Alejandro Moreno “didn’t see ‘it’” when it came to Ugalde.

Whatever that means.

Here’s what we do know:
He signed with City Football Group
He leads Lommel SK with 11 goals
He is the most in-form striker in the pool
5. Oscar Duarte, CB, Levante
Only two Ticos are seeing significant minutes in Europe’s top five leagues. Oscar Duarte is one of them. 
6. Johan Venegas, F, Alajuelense
This is where the nuance comes into play. Under no circumstance should Johan Venegas be starting for the national team. None.

BUT…there’s no denying his form in Costa Rica. 

The dude practically invented goal scoring in the CONCACAF Champions Nations League Leagues Cup thing, or whatever the hell they call that dog-shit tournament created to discriminate against Central American and Caribbean clubs. He bagged nine goals and an assist for Saprissa last season in the Apertura. He leads the league with four goals in five games for Alajuelense in the Clausura.

Why shouldn’t he be a starter for the national team? He’s 33. There are more talented and younger players ahead of him in each of the three positions he can play, which naturally means Ronald Gonzalez will start him. 

7. Cristian Gamboa, RB, VfL Bochum
Gamboa was a 2014 World Cup hero. His reward was a punishment, forced to play under Tony Pulis at West Brom. Living in Scotland, albeit to play with Celtic, wasn’t much of an upgrade, either. 

He finally has a home in Germany’s second division. Now 31, Gamboa is an undisputed starter at VfL Bochum. His 1,559 minutes played is fifth-best at the club and his 7.04 player rating, per WhoScored, is good enough for fourth. 
8. Bernald Alfaro, CM, Alajuelense
The midfield maestro of Costa Rica. Bernald Alfaro is the definition of a 6. 

Athletic enough to cover ground in transition
Intelligent enough to dictate the tempo
A passing spectrum that makes him a threat every time he’s on the ball 
9. Jimmy Marin, Winger, Saprissa,
There’s no denying Jimmy Marin’s talent, but his impact at Saprissa wasn’t as impactful as expected. Granted, when you’re asked to attack alongside Daniel Colindres and Frank Zamora, there’s only so much you can do.

Even still, Marin is Saprissa’s biggest attacking threat every time they take the pitch. 
10. Luis Diaz, Winger, Columbus Crew
There are more than 400,000 COVID deaths in the United States, but Americans needed their sports, so Luis Diaz was able to lift a trophy last year. Good for him.

Seriously, America. WTF?

Diaz is everything you want in a winger. Watching him abuse mediocre fullbacks in MLS is weekly scheduled television.
11. Francisco Calvo, CB, Chicago Fire
Is Francisco Calvo still good? No, that’s a serious question. I refuse to watch the Chicago Fire, so I honestly don’t know. 

12. Juan Pablo Vargas, CB, Millonarios
Juan Pablo Vargas has the size, the athleticism to defend in wide areas and a strong aerial game. Only 25, he’s one of the rising stars in what is largely an aging center back pool. Just don’t bring him around your wife because GOOD LORD!
13. Allan Cruz, CM, FC Cincinnati
Allan Cruz deserves to be higher on this list. Especially if we’re critiquing him off his 2019 form, where he finished with seven goals and an assist in his first MLS season.

Injuries plagued him in 2020. He only started eight games and played 1,000 fewer minutes than the year before. Fingers crossed for a return to health and form in 2021.
14. Patrick Sequeira, GK, Celta Vigo B
Forget about Lionel Moreira and Esteban Alvarado. They were born in the wrong era, the era of KeyLord. They’ll never play World Cup minutes for La Sele. The objective is to find Navas’ replacement, the heir to his throne.

Patrick Sequeira got next.

A product of the Saprissa academy, Sequeira is currently on loan at Celta Vigo B in Spain’s third division. Celta Vigo has an option to buy from Real Union. Sequeira’s recent form and overall season between the posts is going to make it hard to bypass that option.
15. Kevin Espinoza, CB, Guadalupe
Guadalupe is that “young, sexy” club vying for playoff contention in Costa Rica. Espinoza is a big reason why. A key part of Costa Rica’s Olympic qualifying team, Espinoza still requires a bigger stage for his talents to be appreciated.

16. Bryan Ruiz, CAM, Alajuelense
There are times you can watch Alajuelense and not even mention the name, Bryan Ruiz. You’re too focused on Alfaro’s hold on the tempo, or the youth exploiting the wings. At his best, he can be the difference, he’s just not consistently at his best. 

That’s not a slight when you’re 35. That’s expected.

17. Christopher Nunez, CAM, Cartagines
Very few 10s in Costa Rica get the opportunity to operate the way Christopher Nunez does. Most of that has to do with tactics. Too many clubs favor a 5-4-1 or 4-4-2, limiting the creativity of attacking mids. 

Hernan Medford knows better. Nunez has the freedom to be his creative self in Cartagines’ system. Senior team minutes are in his future.
18. Ronald Matarrita, LB, FC Cincinnati
Admittedly, I soured on Ronald Matarrita. It didn’t help to see him on the wing, either.

He was rejuvenated last season, though, returning to form in his favored position. He’ll have to be even more of a catalyst for FC Cincinnati, one of the worst defenses in MLS. Still, only 26, this could be the window where he pushes Bryan Oviedo for the starting LB position.

19. Jonathan Moya, F, FC Anyang
Jonathan Moya’s move to FC Anyang is puzzling, to say the least. South Korea isn’t exactly a place Ticos go to shine. 

When’s the last time you’ve seen Elias Aguilar?

That said, Moya was instrumental in Alajuelense’s title run last season. Whether that form carries overseas remains to be seen.
20. Adrian Alonso Martinez, F, Alajuelense
There is a plethora of young attacking talisman in Costa Rica. Harry Rojas, Brayan Rojas, Jurgens Montenegro, but Alonso Martinez is the flavor of the month right now.

Only 22, he burst onto the scene for Alajuelense last season, scoring three goals in 12 appearances. Add a winner in the first leg of the final against Herediano for good measure.

For an encore, Martinez started the 2021 Clausura with two goals in five appearances. Don’t expect him to be a one-hit-wonder.

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