Orlando City announced this afternoon that it has acquired Uruguayan defender José Aja on a six-month loan from Uruguayan Primera Division side Nacional. The deal gives the MLS club an option to buy, pending approval of his P-1 visa and ITC.
Aja has been with Nacional, the most popular club in Uruguay, since 2014, and played the most recent Clausura season with Racing Club de Montevideo. The 23-year-old made 12 appearances in 15 games for Racing, scoring twice and assisting once in 1,278 minutes of play.
The defender had returned to his parent club, Nacional, following his loan, where he began to train. Nacional's technical director, Martin Lasarte, said in an interview with The Oral Deportiva of Universal Radio that Aja did not feature into the club's future plans and that, "In principle, Aja would go to MLS." With Orlando City lacking defenders, Aja was immediately linked with the Lions. The first to report on the potential deal with Orlando City was the Uruguayan outlet Ovacion.
"We are excited to have Jose join the team," Orlando City Assistant General Manager Niki Budalic said about the deal in a club press release. "He is a young, talented defender that we have been looking at for a while because we knew he could come in and make an impact on our team. We look forward to working with him and benefiting from his contributions."
Aja started training with Orlando City in early July as he waited for additional paperwork to clear. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound defender will join the Lions as they travel to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew Saturday night with Tommy Redding still on the mend from a hamstring injury.
The Uruguayan will occupy one of the club's open international slots that became available with the departures of Aurelien Collin and Adrian Winter. The Lions have been operating with only two experienced center backs this season since Collin's departure, although Redding has played well despite his youth and relative inexperience. Aja will certainly fill a need for the club.