Uruguayan central defender Jose Aja has yet to appear for Minnesota United, his third MLS team. Make no mistake, though. The 26-year-old is ecstatic to be back in MLS after a season in the Chilean top flight, he revealed in a recent interview with Fox Deportes.
"I missed MLS [while I was in Chile]. I missed the day to day," Aja said. "Over here the training centers and training sessions give you all the tools you need to be at 100 percent. In South America it's not like this. You're lacking those tools [there]. Over here they facilitate all of it and it's really a pleasure to go to work. I missed this a lot. And I missed the competition [in MLS]. It's a competitive league in which all the teams and the games are evenly matched."
He later added: "When Minnesota came calling, I didn't think twice."
Aja was signed as a valuable depth piece for coach Adrian Heath, who after qualifying the Loons for the playoffs for the first time in 2019 is looking to take the club another step forward. Aja started 21 of 25 matches for Union Espanola last season, which finished ninth out of 16 clubs in Chile during a season that ended prematurely due to political unrest in the country. Before that, he had stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City.
To hear him say it, he certainly won't be the last South American player who would rather try a second or third time to win a starting spot at an MLS club.
"The fans here [in MLS] enjoy watching the spectacle and that's what South American players are looking for. The fans experience the game as a party and as a sport, which is what it is," Aja said. "Today MLS is one of the top 5 leagues in the world which is why more South American players want to come here. And in recent years many players who have come here have shown they can also move to important European leagues."