US U-20 star to hostile Mexican crowds: Bring it on!

Benji Joya battles a Haitian player for the ball US U20s

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of CONCACAF

PUEBLA, Mexico – For US midfielder Benji Joya, the hostile anti-US atmosphere inside the stadiums during the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Mexico is not something to worry about.

In fact, it inspires him to up the level of his game.

“Hearing those negative comments motivates me, it motivates most of us to want to do a good show and a good game and prove to them who we are,” Joya said after Thursday’s training session. “Them talking smack isn’t going to affect us at all. We’re going to come out and do the same thing we’ve been working on, and get the three points.”

Joya, who plays for Liga MX side Santos Laguna, is one of nine American players here at the championship – which doubles as the qualifying tournament for this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey– who speak and understand Spanish. He stressed that regardless of race, creed or language, going out onto the field to represent the US is a uniting experience.

“We’re all Americans and we’ve all come here to play and live for a dream, which is to become pro and start our careers,” said Joya, who went 90 minutes in the USA's 2-1 win over Haiti earlier this week.

The US U-20s have already mathematically qualified for the quarterfinals. They face Costa Rica in their final group-stage match on Friday at 6:30 pm ET, with top spot in Group A on the line. The match will be broadcast on Fox Soccer.

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.