La Sele captain Bryan Ruíz was announced as the 2016 CONCACAF Player of the Year Wednesday after a fan and media vote chose the Tico as the region’s top footballer.
Ruíz has helped put Costa Rica on the fast track to make it to the World Cup in Russia next year with his great play in qualifiers. The men’s National Team has climbed to No. 17 in the world as it rides a nine-game unbeaten streak.
For Costa Rica, Ruíz had two goals in all matches last year while making his biggest impact as a passer and creator for La Sele’s other scorers. At the club level, Ruíz again impressed for Portugal’s Sporting CP in his second season there. He has helped the Leões remain one of the top teams in the Portuguese Primeira Liga as a mainstay in the starting lineup.
#CONCACAFAwards 2016 Male Player of the Year goes to @bryanruizcr of @fedefutbol_cr @Sporting_CP pic.twitter.com/8nn6SnuQp5
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) January 18, 2017
La Sele head coach Óscar Ramírez won the CONCACAF Coach of the Year Award as well on Wednesday. The former National Team player has helped lead Costa Rica to an impressive 14-4-4 record since he took over in September of 2015. Though La Sele had a disappointing showing at last year’s Copa América tournament, Ramírez has managed his team well through World Cup Qualifying. Costa Rica leads the regional table in the final “Hexagonal” round of six where the top three teams get an automatic qualifying spot for Russia 2018.
Superstar goalie Keylor Navas, who was the 2014 CONCACAF Player of the Year, was named this year’s top goalkeeper in the region and also included in the Men’s Best XI, a selection of the region’s best players at each position. Alongside Ruíz and Navas on the CONCACAF Best XI are left-wing defender Ronald Matarrita and midfielder Christian Bolaños.
The young Matarrita has been an instant mainstay in Ramírez’s lineups and shone in his role as both wing defenseman and facilitator for La Sele offense. The 22-year-old left back has two goals in Costa Rica’s last three World Cup qualifying matches.
Though a decade older, Bolaños has revived his career under Ramírez and given La Sele a huge boost in the midfield next to Ruíz. Like Matarrita, Bolaños had a huge 2016 and is on a scoring streak in World Cup qualifying where he has four goals in his last three CONCACAF matches.
On the women’s side, Costa Ricans Gloriana Villalobos and Shirley Cruz were named to the Women’s Best XI team as the best players at the midfield position. The 17-year-old Villalobos just signed her letter of intent to play on the women’s team next fall at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida where she will play for one of the best teams in the NCAA for the next four years.
Alex Morgan of the U.S. was honored with the Women’s Player of the Year Award.