LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake have lost four out of their last five matches for the first time in four seasons. It’s likely no coincidence that it has happened in the absence of reigning defender of the year Jámison Olave.
After the Colombian center back went down with an MCL injury during the MLS All-Star Game, RSL proceeded to give up eight goals in five matches. That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the rate of goals they allowed in the first 18 games of the season, in which they only allowed 12 goals.
“We call him around the locker room sometimes ‘The Eraser,’” head coach Jason Kreis said. “He’s sometimes capable sometimes of making that really special play that saves a goal.”
As an example, Kreis pointed to the first goal surrendered to Houston last Saturday as one case of a play that Olave’s presence might have changed.
“Maybe if Olave is in the game, he has the close-down speed to just go through Brad Davis before Brad ever gets the chance to slot the ball to [Brian] Ching,” Kreis said.
Midfielder Will Johnson adds that the team on the field misses especially misses the big Colombian and what he offers the squad.
“Jámison can make defensive plays by himself,” Johnson said after training on Tuesday. “He’s the best defender in the league by a mile. And the other thing that you miss with Jamison is that he scores goals for us. So getting him back is going to be great.”
However, despite training for the past couple of weeks, Olave is still questionable heading into this weekend.
“It's 60-40,” said Kreis, estimating the probability of his influential defender making a return to the pitch. “It’s just difficult. Any time you have someone coming back from an injury, you never know until you know.
“So we’re thinking about whether it’s time to just go ahead and throw him in there and see a little bit. He’s looked pretty strong in the training sessions this week, but still experiencing some pain. I just think it comes down to whether or not it’s just time to go for it or maybe be a little bit more cautious still and wait another week.”
Captain Kyle Beckerman is hopeful to see him return.
“He’s a beast,” Beckerman said. “We all know it. He’s a big part of this team, and a big part of the reason why we do well. It will be good to have him back.”