At the end of the 2016 season, Jose Aja was hoping to extend his stay with Orlando City.
That eventually happened when the defender penned a four-year contract last December, officially signing for Orlando City after previously playing as a loaned player from Uruguayan side Club Nacional.
Toward the end of the 2017 season, however, Aja is looking at proving his worth after falling out of favor with the Lions in the last five games.
“It’s been tough not playing the last few games, seeing them from the sideline isn’t great, I always want to play and give my all to the team, but [Jason Kreis] has told me he has confidence in me and I have to keep training hard for these last two games,” Aja told the Orlando Soccer Journal on Wednesday.
Aja said he feels at home in Orlando after living most of his life back home in Uruguay. Frequent visits from his family and girlfriend have made his transition easy, but also added a deep appreciation for the city and club.
But with two games left to the season, Aja awaits to know what the team’s plans are for next year.
“I’ll talk with the coach, regarding his thoughts for next season. If I end up staying here, I’ll be really happy because I love this place,” said Aja.
Aja has not played in Orlando’s last five games and last played on Sept. 2 during a 4-0 road loss to the New England Revolution, where he started and played 80 minutes.
Yet, Aja has been part of the team’s revolving center backs that include Tommy Redding, 20; and Leo Pereira, 21.
Orlando City manager Niki Budalic recently told the OSJ in September that putting pressure on center backs, like 24-year-old Aja, isn’t always the right idea, adding that it takes time for something to develop.
“Anytime you have young center backs, I think you don’t want to put a lot of pressure on them to be the regular guys. They’ve shown what they’re capable of, but they’ve also shown they need time to grow. It’s a working progress,” said Budalic.
Aja trained fully with the squad on Wednesday.
Orlando City hosts the Columbus Crew on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Orlando City Stadium.
(Photo Courtesy of Orlando City)
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