By: Colin Reese
In Benji Joya’s first MLS game and his first game for the Chicago Fire, the central midfielder proved that he was able to excel on the wing as an attacking midfielder, and this confirmed that Joya really was a complete midfielder who could play anywhere in the midfield.
Many central midfielders find it difficult to play out wide because they aren’t able to avoid being pinned to the sideline by opposing players, but Joya showed that he was able to attack from out wide and combine with his teammates and make runs without being trapped out wide with nowhere to go.
The scouting report on Benji Joya has long been that he is one of the most exciting young American soccer prospects and that he is able to play anywhere in the midfield, and his first game with the Fire showed how Joya could be valuable to his club team or to the United States Men’s National Team not only because of his versatility but also because of his technical ability and intensity.
Joya scored within a minute of coming onto the field in his first MLS game, and although his goal was an easy tap in, it displayed his ability to put himself in scoring positions and pose a threat to opposing defenses. Joya ghosted behind his marker, and his run showed that he was not only willing to put in a lot of off the ball movement and work rate, but he was also a player who was actively looking to pose an attacking threat and score.
On one occasion, Joya saw an opening to take several dribbles from the left wing toward the top of the penalty box, and Joya set up and took a shot without hesitation. The shot was struck too low as Joya was intending to play his shot over the goalkeeper and bend it in, but the intent and idea were clearly there.
Joya’s first MLS game was just one game, but in many ways, it validated the hype surrounding the player.
In Jürgen Klinsmann’s eyes, Benji Joya is likely just a promising player and a very long shot for the 2014 World Cup roster, but every time that Joya has had a chance to showcase his abilities to play at a high-level, he has demonstrated that he is a special player in the American soccer pool.
With Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey being the two most-talented American players, Joe Corona and now Benji Joya have demonstrated that they can not only play on the left and right wing where Dempsey and Donovan thrive, but they can also play centrally. Whereas Corona is an attacking midfielder, Joya is a complete midfielder that brings a needed two-way skill-set that makes him a useful player for the United States for a variety of reasons.
The United States Men’s National Team has definitely and surprisingly been undervaluing Corona, but now it appears that Benji Joya brings a number of qualities that overshadow the stigma of his youth and lack of international experience.
While the United States Men’s National Team doesn’t have a lot of creative and technical players of note, it also doesn’t have any midfielder other than Michael Bradley who is effective from an attacking and from a defensive standpoint, and Joya is a more technical, more creative, and more skilled attacking player than Bradley.
From a soccer standpoint, the United States is different from most of the first and second tier soccer nations in that it can’t afford to freeze out young and talented players who are inexperienced because their skill is needed to improve the overall technical ability of the squad.
As a national team prospect, Joya may be young and inexperienced, but his talent, his competitive spirit, and his complete skill-set is clear for all to see, which is why he is regarded as one of the best young talents in the American player pool.
In the run up to the World Cup, Benji Joya is going to show that he not only performs well in MLS, but he is only going to show that his talent, workrate, and mentality stand out from the crowd.
Given the fact that so much of the United States Men’s National Team plays in MLS, Joya’s success in the same league as those players is going to up his stock and make him a legitimate late contender for a World Cup roster spot.
Young players making a late push for a spot on a national team right before a World Cup is not a new phenomenon.