Waston, Bola celebration - Costa Rica

Five things to know about Costa Rica ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Kendall Waston and his Costa Rican national team kick off the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday against Serbia (5 a.m. PT on TSN/CTV), before facing powerhouse Brazil on June 22 (5 a.m. PT on TSN) and closing out the group stage on June 27 against Switzerland (11 a.m. PT on TSN2).

Looking for a little cheat sheet on Waston and Los Ticos before the games get going? Then you’re in the right place. Here are five things you need to know about the Costa Rican national team.

CAPTAIN KENDALL

Waston, who was named Whitecaps FC captain in 2017, has established himself as one of the premier centre backs in the entire region of North/Central America since joining the ‘Caps midway through 2014. At the club level, he has appeared in 108 MLS matches, scoring 13 goals. In 2015 and 2017, he was voted Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year, selected to the MLS Best XI, and named a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year. Internationally, the 6-foot-5 centre back played a key role for Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying and scored the stoppage-time goal that clinched their World Cup berth last October. Should Waston feature with the Ticos in Russia, he would become the first active Whitecaps FC player to play in a World Cup.

STAR POWER

The two highest-profile players on Costa Rica’s roster are goalkeeper Keylor Navas and midfielder Bryan Ruiz. Navas, who like Waston began his professional career at Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica, has been a member of Spanish giants Real Madrid CF since 2014 and recently won his third UEFA Champions League title. Ruiz, the national team captain, is currently a member of Portuguese side Sporting CP and has also spent time with Fulham FC and PSV Eindhoven.

MLS CONTINGENT

Waston is one of six MLS players on Costa Rica’s roster, or seven if you include Johan Venegas who is currently on loan from Minnesota United FC. The other MLSers representing Los Ticos are centre back Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United FC), fullback Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), midfielders David Guzmán (Portland Timbers - pictured above with Waston) and Rodney Wallace (New York City FC), and forward Marco Ureña (Los Angeles Football Club). Panama is the only other team at this year’s World Cup with as many players from MLS.

FAMILIAR FACE

Another familiar face on Costa Rica’s roster is Christian Bolaños. The 34-year-old midfielder spent two seasons with Whitecaps FC in 2016/2017, recording five goals and 15 assists in 48 MLS regular season appearances. Bolaños is the first Costa Rican to represent the country in three World Cups.

WORLD CUP HISTORY

This will be Costa Rica’s fifth appearance in a World Cup, the most of any Central American country. Their best result came in the most recent edition of the tournament, finishing atop a group that featured Italy, England, and Uruguay, defeating Greece in the Round of 16, before eventually falling to Netherlands in penalties in the quarterfinals.