SANDY — To play or not to play Jamison Olave, that's the million dollar question for Real Salt Lake's coaching staff this Thursday.
Considering Olave's track record against Houston, RSL's best chance at beating the Dynamo might be with him on the bench. Plus, no one needs the rest more than the banged-up Olave, especially with a short turnaround from last Saturday's win over Philadelphia.
Then again, with as well as Olave is playing defensively — including scoring in two straight games — how can the coaching staff possibly keep him on the bench?
That's the dilemma facing coach Jason Kreis this week.
Regardless of the opponent though, Kreis has hinted recently that Olave is due for a night off soon. In most of RSL's seven games this season, Olave has taken a knock at some point and needed treatment from the trainers. He's remained in the game each time, but it seems to be taking its toll.
This past weekend Olave went down a few times again and was eventually replaced by Rauwshan McKenzie in the 73rd minute with the outcome well in hand.
"Another game he goes down two or three times with pain, I'm concerned, no doubt about it I'm concerned," said Kreis.
In the offseason Olave had arthroscopic knee surgery, and though he's healthy enough to play, he's by no means pain free. As a former player who suffered several major knee injuries, Kreis is sympathetic about the long road to a full recovery.
With Houston coming to town it seems like the perfect game to rest Olave. It might be a coincidence, but no team brings out the worst in Olave quite like Houston.
In five career matches against the Dynamo, Olave has been sent off twice, picked up a yellow card in the other three and conceded two penalty kicks. It's an awful track record that's directly cost Real Salt Lake valuable points.
Olave's biggest mental lapses have occurred on the road.
Just over a month ago, and with RSL leading 1-0 in the second half at Robertson Stadium, Olave made two very aggressive challenges in the box within minutes of each and the referee didn't hesitate pointing to the spot each time. Brad Davis converted both penalty kicks propelling Houston to a 2-1 win.
"I think we can be a little less aggressive. I'd like to see us force other teams make plays and score goals instead of giving them penalty kicks," said Kreis.
In some respects they were forgivable fouls becomes they came within the run of play. Olave's bizarre red card in Houston last season was just plain stupid
With his team leading 1-0 on a hot night in Houston, Olave jumped in front of Brian Ching to block a thrown-in with his outstretched arms. The ref immediately showed him a yellow card for delaying the restart. Olave had already picked up a yellow card earlier in the match and he was sent to the showers.
Houston eventually scored a late equalizer against an extremely-fatigued 10-man RSL team.
Both hiccups might've been isolated incidents, but is it something Kreis wants to risk on a nationally-televised game with a two-game winning streak on the line?
Kreis has praised Olave's back-up on several occasions, and now might be the perfect opportunity to prove it.
"We feel very good about the guy that we have to step in and do the job if Jamison's injured in Raushawn McKenzie, who's played a couple times now for us and done well," said Kreis.