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Fire Thu Feb 06 2014
The Chicago Fire participated Wednesday in a weighted lottery between 3 teams in MLS for the ability to sign United States Youth National Team player Benji Joya and emerged the victor, signing him on a one year loan. Joya, a 20-year-old midfielder played previously with Santos Laguna of Mexico's Liga MX, brings an interesting perspective to the team, having forgone the collegiate route to sign with one of the top clubs in Mexico. Joya has also been a fixture in the National Team picture, having started nearly every game in his time with the Under-20 National Team, even serving as captain for last summer's CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
Joya's career for Santos' senior team was relatively short, just four appearances over two years, but it is clear from his time with the National Team that he is a player of significant talent, and is just getting started professionally. He could be an impact signing for the Fire in 2014, but that will be contingent of whether or not he can get minutes. He will be vying for a spot in a midfield that sees all four of last year's starters return, so initially expect to see him come in as a second-half substitute. According to a piece by Brian Sciaretta in the New York Times, Joya's strength is as an attacking right midfielder, a position which has been occupied at times by Patrick Nyarko. Nyarko has a great deal of speed, and can slot in at forward as well, but with the return of 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee and Designated Player Juan Luis Anongono, one has to imagine Nyarko will see more minutes in the midfield.
All of this is to be tempered though, by the fact that head coach Frank Yallop will have the opportunity to rethink the team with regards to positional depth in the coming weeks while the Fire complete pre-season training in Ave Maria, Florida, and that we could see a very different-looking group of players taking the field come March 8th.