Even before the unfortunate injury to Stuart Holden, World Soccer Source backed Benji Joya for the United States Men’s National Team because he is a complete midfielder who brings all of the qualities that the U.S. needs in the midfield.
Players like Joe Benny Corona and Mix Diskerud are playmakers who can play at any attacking midfield position, but Joya is a midfielder who actually plays the box-to-box midfielder role because he is strong defensively and he has the vision, technical ability, and creativity to also be a major protagonist in the attack.
Many people believe Joya is not inexperienced enough to be on the USMNT, but the reality is that the team needs a box-to-box midfielder who brings strong defense, excellent skill on the ball, good athleticism, and a big game mentality.
Joya is a skilled passer whether he is playing quick passes in tight space or whether he is playing longer passes to switch the point of the attack, and Joya has the all-important ability to play final balls that set up goals. Joya’s technical ability and advanced passing skills shouldn’t be overlooked, and his ability to play in La Liga MX as a teenager show that his skill-level was good enough to skip college soccer and MLS.
With players like Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Jones being more defensive midfielders than attacking midfielders, Joya is an actual box-to-box midfielder who can help to connect the deeper-lying defensive midfielders to players like Donovan, Corona, and Dempsey.
Many observers have debated whether or not Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones are midfield destroyers or box-to-box midfielders, and the answer isn’t totally clear.
On the other hand, Joya would be a useful addition to the national team, who deserves a roster spot due to his qualities and his ability to deliver a high-level of play against top opponents if Michael Bradley or Jermaine Jones is unavailable.
At present, Klinsmann’s formation of choice is to use Bradley and Jones or Cameron and Bradley, but there’s no good reason why a formation where Cameron plays as a midfield destroyer and Bradley and Joya play in front of him as box-to-box midfielders wouldn’t give the USMNT quality passing and strong midfield defense at the same time.
Even before Joya played well against Paul Pogba and France in the U-20 World Cup, he had already demonstrated that he had the tools that a midfielder needs at the international level to be successful. As opposed to just being a midfielder who can defend and pass the ball well-enough for international soccer, Joya’s ability to play final balls and the quality of his passes proves him to be a midfielder with an advanced ability to bring creativity and one-to-two touch soccer to the midfield.
Going forward, the USMNT will need midfielders like Benji Joya who are true box-to-box midfielders that can not only help the U.S. to play strong midfield defense but that can also help to keep possession in the midfield and look to break down the opposition with quality passing.
Playing Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud as the box-to-box midfielder partner for a midfield destroyer was always a stretch, but Joya actually plays this position.
There’s nothing to say that the USMNT can’t play a diamond midfield formation with Geoff Cameron as a midfield destroyer, Michael Bradley and Benji Joya as the box-to-box midfielders, and Joe Benny Corona as the tip of the diamond as a playmaker.
Maybe Benji Joya shouldn’t start for the United States until he get s few caps under his belt, but he definitely would be a useful player to include on a 23-man roster because of the qualities he brings and because he isn’t fazed by famous opponents or big games.
The USMNT needs Joya more than it needs Kyle Beckerman or Graham Zusi because the United States already has excellent defensive midfielders and excellent attacking midfielders.
As far as box-to-box midfielders go, it’s very likely that Joya is better at playing final balls than Michael Bradley and that Michael Bradley is better defensively than Benji Joya, and, assuming Geoff Cameron is playing the midfield destroyer role, a combination of two box-to-box midfielders who excel at different aspects of the game could bring some needed balance to the USMNT.