Francisco Calvo steps up as unlikely scoring option for Costa Rica

HOUSTON – In a team boasting the likes of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, you would think one of those two would be the leading scorer for the Costa Rican national team in 2017.

You’d be wrong. Step forward, Francisco Calvo. Yes, the same man who anchors the back line for Minnesota United FC.

It is Calvo who at present has scored the most goals for the Ticos since January 1, with three following his thumping header that helped Costa Rica earn a 1-1 draw vs. Canada. That result has the Central Americans poised to potentially clinch top spot in Gold Cup Group A with a win on Friday against French Guiana in Frisco, Texas (7:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).

Known as “The Fireman” for being able to play either side at fullback or at center back, Calvo is quickly transforming into the Costa Rican Sergio Ramos for his penchant for scoring headers – although he’s slow to take any credit.

“The goals that I have scored with the national team have been because of my teammates,” said Calvo in the mixed zone following Tuesday’s draw. “I have some ability in it, but it’s because we practice it and things go as they are intended to go.”

While Calvo’s scoring prowess has only recently come to fruition on the international stage, at club level the 25-year-old has been a regular goal-producer dating back to his Perez Zeledon days, when he notched five goals during the 2012 Costa Rican Torneo de Invierno.

There were other productive seasons at Herediano (three goals) and Santos de Guapiles (five goals) before landing at giants Saprissa, where he scored 14 goals in three seasons, which ultimately paved the way for his winter transfer to Minnesota.

That has all translated to La Sele, and his timing could not be better. All three of Calvo’s scores this year have come in official competition: The 1-1 Copa Centroamericana draw vs. Honduras; a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad & Tobago and Tuesday’s point-saving header against the Canadians.

Yet Calvo’s success in front of goal does not change the fact that Costa Rica is plagued by scoring issues. With just nine goals in 11 matches in 2017, it is a far cry from the team that poured in 14 goals in six World Cup qualifiers in 2016.

Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez would surely prefer to have one of his forwards rekindle their scoring touch against French Guiana, but in the meantime, Calvo is ready to offer a spark.

“I hope to keep contributing to the team, and better yet if it’s with goals,” said Calvo.