Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
While a handful of players left Major League Soccer this offseason for warmer pastures in Liga MX, one player is heading north of the border in search of playing time.
Former U.S. Under-20 midfielder Benjamin “Benji” Joya has signed with MLS on loan with an option to buy from Santos Laguna and will enter a weighted lottery to determine which club he goes to, a league spokesperson told SBI. The Chicago Fire, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake have all entered the lottery. (UPDATE: The Fire announced this afternoon that they won the lottery and have acquired Joya.)
“Benji is a talented, young player,” Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop said in a club statement. “He has international experience and will be a great addition as we continue to build and strengthen our squad.”
The Fire had the best odds to acquire Joya, with a 68 percent chance, followed by the Sounders with 29 percent and RSL with only a three percent chance. The lottery will be conducted on Wednesday and the team that acquires the San Jose, Calif. will make a formal announcement.
Joya, 20, has been a regular for the Santos Laguna Under-20 team since he became a professional in 2011, but he’s had a tough time cracking the first-team lineup for league games. Joya made four appearances in the 2012 Apertura season but otherwise has been out of the game day squad.
This season, Joya made two substitute appearances for Santos in Copa MX and since the start of the 2013/2014 season has played with the U-20s 11 times, scoring three goals.
Joya was a key member of the U.S. U-20s that went to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup last year. He played 11 times in official competitions, captaining the side in the semifinals and finals of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and scored a penalty kick goal in the final against Mexico to tie the match, though Mexico went on to win on home soil.
What do you think of this news? Excited to hear Joya come to MLS? Do you expect him to see more playing time here rather than in Mexico?
Share your thoughts below.