LEHI — Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave is a walking contradiction.

On the field, the 27-year-old Colombian is a monster. He is a physical specimen whose hard-nosed play has sent many opponents wayward wishing they never would have tangled.

"I think my strength and speed make me a good player," Olave said through an interpreter. "I like to play hard and I am pretty good when the ball is in the air."

Off the field, Olave is a gentle giant. He prefers being out of the spotlight, taking it easy and simply relaxing. He is a polar opposite from the on-field Olave.

"I love it here," Olave added through a translator. "The city is laid back, tranquil. It is a good atmosphere for me. The people are friendly and it is my type of place."

Olave has been quite a find for RSL. This is his seventh year playing professional soccer, but his first in the United States. He played his first six years in his native Colombia for four different teams. In fact, Olave is only on loan from his most recent club of Deportivo Cali, something that both RSL and Olave would love to change.

"Obviously with what Jamison has done for us we would like to work something out for him to be able to stay," said general manager Garth Lagerway. "It is just a matter of trying to work something out with his team back in Colombia. If they have seen the way he has been playing, then I think they are going to want to keep him, but we will have to see what can be done after the season is over."

"I'd like to be able to stay here," added Olave through his translator and teammate Javier Morales. "It may be difficult because of the transfer fees, but I would really like to be with Real next season."

Olave's emergence has meant a stiffer, tougher defense for Real. Not only his individual efforts, but his presence has helped the entire side.

"His athleticism and strength and size has allowed the other defenders and players around him to take more risks," said coach Jason Kreis. "Defensively, they can try to get in to balls that they may not have without that kind of athletic cover behind him. I think it has allowed us as a whole team to be a little more aggressive than we have in years past."

The numbers speak for themselves. Olave has started 14 league games, and in those contests, RSL has given up only 10 goals. In the five games prior to his insertion in the starting lineup, the team surrendered nine. Real has given up 20 goals in 19 games on the year compared to 45 goals in 30 games a season ago.

One thing that has hampered Olave is that his physical style of play has led to a number of yellow cards. In fact, when the team travels to face Houston on Saturday with first place in the Western Conference on the line, Olave will be watching from the sidelines because of a league-mandated suspension for his accumulation of cautions.

"It will be hard not to be on the field," he said. "You always want to be out there helping your team, but I guess this week I will just have to be the team's No. 1 fan."

With the way Olave has been playing, there will also be plenty of fans getting behind him as well.


E-mail: mblack@desnews.com