ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United completed the signing of Uruguayan José Aja on a free transfer Friday.
Aja most-recently played with Unión Española in the Chilean first division, but found himself out of contract as of January. He possesses a green card and will not require an international roster spot.
Aja’s previous stint in Major League Soccer spanned 2016 to 2018. He played 25 league games for Orlando City and 17 with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Per the MLS Players Association, Aja earned $240,000 in annual compensation with the Whitecaps in 2018.
The 26-year-old Montevideo native provides needed depth to a Loons roster that will be without cetnerback Brent Kallman (suspension) for the first five games of 2020, and recently traded fellow centerback Wyatt Omsberg to Chicago in exchange for versatile wide player Raheem Edwards.
“Jose is another valuable piece for us to add. With Brent’s suspension early on, we feel as though we’re a little bit light at centerback,” MNUFC coach Adrian Heath said. “To get somebody who’s been in the league, got a Green Card, has come for the opportunity of staying here long-term, we felt it was too good of an opportunity to turn down. Especially as the lad’s played in the league and knows the league inside out. He’s a big, strong, athletic centerback. I think he’ll be another huge addition to our squad.”
Heath and Aja briefly worked together in 2016, when Aja was brought in on loan by Orlando City on June 21. Heath’s role with the Lions was terminated on July 7 of that year.
Aja may contribute more than just depth in Minnesota as one of two Uruguayans wearing black and blue. The other, 19-year-old designated player Thomás Chacón, may find acclimating to life in MLS a bit easier with one of his countrymen in the locker room.