SANDY, Utah – The way he sees it, Jamison Olave has been working for this since he arrived in Major League Soccer two years ago. Real Salt Lake’s big Colombian center back was named the 2010 Visa Defender of the Year award on Friday, and he’s thrilled to finally haul in the hardware.
“Honestly, I had been working for this since I arrived at Real Salt Lake,” Olave told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Now I have it and I’m going to enjoy it.”
WATCH: Olave, Defender of the Year
Olave was one of the main pieces of Real Salt Lake’s crushing defensive unit this season, which set an MLS record by allowing an all-time low 20 goals in the regular season. Olave may have won the award, but he knows he isn’t the only dominating force in RSL’s record-breaking run.
“It’s not only a defensive effort, it’s a team effort,” Olave said. “From the forwards who start pressuring the defense, down to [goalkeeper Nick Rimando], who has saved us many times. Those 20 goals are a work of the entire team, not just the defense.”
[inline_node:322131]The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Olave beat out his own center-back partner, Nat Borchers, for the award, as well as LA Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez. This year was the third time in league history that two teammates were among the three finalists for the award.
"We said that anyone could win it because we had been doing equally well," Olave said of the friendly competition with Borchers. "I repeat, the 20 goals we allowed was a reflection of it. Fortunately, I won and the prize is welcomed."
Olave is perhaps most proud of his disciplinary record this season, in which he has changed his game from his often reckless defensive play in the past to becoming a reliable, smart tackler. He didn’t receive a single ejection this season after being sent off four times in 2009.
“You learn from last year’s mistakes,” he said, "and I think that has also helped me win the prize.”
RSL head coach Jason Kreis agrees that Olave has matured as an effective, intelligent defender during his three seasons at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“Over the last two years, we’ve talked to him a lot about focus,” Kreis told MLSsoccer.com. “There were so many mistakes caused simply by a lack of focus. This year, he’s done a very good job with that, and when you take those mistakes out of his game, he becomes what you see now.”