Chicago Fire finds itself some Joya
OTF welcomes back its original son Roberto Diaz who, in turn, welcomes the newest Fire man to town…
Benjamin “Benji” Joya
On Wednesday February 5th, Chicago Fire won a MLS weighted lottery and landed 20 year-old midfielder Benjamin Joya on a one-year loan (with an option to buy) from Mexican side Santos Laguna. So, who is this Joya kid, and why are Fire fans so excited about having him on the team?
Benji Joya is a former San Jose Earthquakes academy player who decided to try his game in Liga MX rather than being drafted into Major League Soccer. Joya made 4 appearances with the senior squad and 2 more in international cups since his league debut with Santos in September 2012. The newest Man in Red is also a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team U-20 squad, and former teammate there with Fire homegrown Victor Pineda.
Joya has scored four goals and made 19 appearances for the USMNT U-20s, including participation in the 2013 U-20 World Cup. Closer to home, Chicago fans may remember Benji’s goal against the Fire when Santos Laguna came to town for a friendly at Toyota Park in 2012.
Benji was one of the leaders on Santos Laguna’s U-20 team that won the Liga MX U-20 division this past season. According to two people I know who follow Santos’s first team and academies, Joya is a mixed midfielder. In other words, the kid can play as a defensive mid, attacking mid, or on the flanks. That said, his natural position is in the center of the park.
The Santos fans I spoke to also praised Benji’s incredible first touch, technique on the ball, passing ability, field vision, and ball recovery. The only knock on the Fire’s new acquisition is he lacks a bit of physicality.
All told, it appears the Fire got a hell of a young player to add to Yallop’s youth movement. I see Joya as a great option in center midfield to play alongside Big Red Larentowicz.
If Joya can adapt to the more physical nature of MLS play, the Fire should definitely consider making this a permanent move. As mentioned, Benji has experience playing with Victor Pineda, so their acquaintance should certainly help the former feel a bit more comfortable with the team and adapt to his new surroundings. With a base of Pineda, Benji, Ritter, Shipp, and perhaps Atouba, the Fire midfield’s future may be as bright as that of its newest member.
OTF’s original son Roberto Diaz is back! Follow him @goooleador12