Frank Yallop will step into Buckshaw Stadium for the first time on Wednesday night since leaving the Earthquakes in 2013. This time he will be with the team that’s playing against the Earthquakes, the Chicago Fire. Having said that, Frank Yallop wont be the only one making a return to the Bay Area. Patrick Ianni and Matthew Fondy, both of which were born in the Bay Area, are currently with Chicago Fire as well. However, no one will feel happier to be back at home and potentially playing against the Earthquakes than Hector Benjamin Joya, or more commonly known as Benji Joya.
Benji Joya was born and raised in San Jose where he attended Overfelt high school, and played in the school’s team for four years. While he was attending school, he was also helping his mom at work as a janitor working late hours, and then going to school in the mornings with very little sleep. On top of work and school, Benji had a dream to play professional soccer, so he was playing in local club teams around the Bay Area. When he was 15 he joined the De Anza Force soccer academy, and it just snowballed from there.
Just two months after Benji had graduated high school, Maximiliano Roditis, an ex professional soccer player and current scout/agent, scouted Benji Joya while he was with De Anza Force and scheduled a trial for him with Mexican club Santos Laguna. Benji’s trial with Santos Laguna was successful, which led to a singing with the Mexican team.
When Benji was 18 he was with Santos’ reserve team in a tournament in Italy, and Benji received a call from the U20 US National Team’s scouting staff. He was called into a camp with the team in Florida. Once again, Benji had a successful camp with the US youth national team, which led to more call-ups, and eventually he represented the US youth national team in the U20 2013 World Cup in Turkey.
Benji Joya started to gain interest from teams in MLS, because Benji Joya eventually broke into Santos Laguna’s first team, and he had success with the US youth national team as well. All his hard work and success led to a weighted lottery between three MLS teams, the Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake, and Chicago Fire. Obviously, Chicago was the winner of the lottery and they were able to acquire Benji Joya on a one-year loan with an option to buy.
Benji Joya scored his first official MLS goal against Chivas USA after coming on as a sub. His first touch of his MLS career in the 64th minute of the game ended up being his first goal as well.
Currently Benji Joya is coming off of an injury, but says he feels fit and is ready to get some minutes against the Earthquakes this Wednesday. “It’s a very exciting moment for me cause I have family and friends that are going to the game and my dream was always to play here at home,” Benji Joya stated.
Benji has several memories of when he was a young Earthquakes fan like when he would go to Spartan Stadium and watch the Earthquakes play and when Shea Salinas gave him his game-worn cleats, which Benji even ended up using himself as well.
Benji even remembers his current coach, Frank Yallop, coaching the Earthquakes. “Knowing Frank Yallop was the head coach was very surprising for me cause I use to go watch the San Jose Earthquakes when I was little and I remember him as head coach. Now having him as my coach is pretty crazy to think about. I know I’m going go learn a lot here; we have a great coaching staff,” Benji expressed.
Hopefully Benji’s dream of playing professional soccer in San Jose comes true this Wednesday night, just as long as it’s the Earthquakes who end up taking the 3 points away from the match. We all know how much the team desperately needs points right now.