Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis and his players have figured out they've got something special on their hands, and his name is Jamison Olave.
Since making an inauspicious debut with RSL in a 4-1 loss to D.C. United back in April, Olave, a central defender from Colombia, has been a revelation at the heart of Real's defense.
He's been commanding, he's been composed, and he's become the perfect compliment to fellow center back Nat Borchers.
Those three qualities were on display when Real beat Toronto 2-1 on Monday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium not that you'd expect anything less from the Colombian but to top it all off, Olave did something for the first time in MLS he scored.
Olave put RSL up 1-0 with a powerful header midway through the second half, and while he later conceded a foul that resulted in Toronto's equalizer through Amado Guevara, Robbie Findley saved Salt Lake with a game-winning goal in the 86th minute.
Afterward, there was no shortage of RSL folks willing to discuss how solid Olave has been all year.
"I couldn't be happier for him to get that goal," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. "He's been playing amazing all around in the air, hustling people (and) his feet are good. He's been one of the top defenders in the league, that's for sure."
Kreis echoed those sentiments.
"He's been nothing short of spectacular," said RSL's coach.
Following Monday night's win, Olave said he feels like he's really starting to hit his stride.
"Fortunately I'm starting to reach a good level," he said.
Beckerman and company didn't know exactly what to expect from Olave at the onset of the 2008 MLS campaign, but they've been more and more impressed with every passing match.
"We just saw him as a big guy, but he's actually just gotten better and better with each game," said Beckerman. "It's amazing to see. He's real quiet. He just goes about his business, and he's just an animal out there."
In one moment against Toronto, Olave showed just how domineering he can be. Fullback Chris Wingert whipped a ball deep from the right side toward goal in the 63rd minute, and Olave got behind Toronto's defense and powered the ball into the net.
To be fair, the marking by Toronto wasn't exactly stellar, but Olave's majestic finish left no doubt whatsoever.11 comments on this story
Olave was later cautioned for the foul that led to Toronto's goal, and he'll be suspended because of yellow-card accumulation when Salt Lake returns to action at Houston on Aug. 16. However, Kreis hopes his first MLS goal will spur him to more once he gets back on the field, presumably against Columbus the following Saturday."The interesting part of that is we can't get him to go up on all the corners. I guess maybe he feels a little tired when he has to get back," said Kreis. "To see him rewarded for one, maybe he'll go for all corners now, and that'll help us."