CARSON, Calif. – After nursing an injury for a week, Jámison Olave made the starting XI for Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday night. His presence was deemed necessary to help thwart the LA Galaxy’s potent counterattack, but in the end, it was not to be as RSL fell 3-1.
“I think he battled through a lot,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said of Olave in the postseason press conference. “I think it says a lot about Jámison Olave that he’s going to play through a situation where they told me there’s no chance he’s going to play, and he might not be able to play in the final had we made it there.
“A week to have the turnaround that he did, and then the willingness to say ‘I’ll play’ – that says a lot about Jámison Olave. I thought he was very strong tonight, and he ran out of gas as we thought it would. He made it a lot further than I thought he would, though.”
With a two goal lead, the game was stretched tremendously in the late stages, and Olave was forced to make a long run to catch up with Galaxy striker Robbie Keane in the 68th minute. That particular matchup had been in the offing all evening, as it pitted the strength of the LA attack on the night versus the heart of the RSL defense.
As it played out, Keane was able to sidestep Olave on the break, getting the game-winning goal. Olave, it seemed had run out of gas, and the hulking Columbian was eventually subbed out in the 82nd minute.
Teammate Nat Borchers, Olave’s usual partner in the center of the defense, was forced to watch from the sideline and applauded his teammate’s effort.
“I think it is tough coming off an injury like that,” said Borchers. 'He had a pretty significant quad strain, and he was really fighting through it. I’m proud to see him continue to fight out there. It’s tough to come back from an injury after a week of pretty much not doing anything.”
The Galaxy's tendency to play a countering style likely weighed into Kreis’ decision to give Olave the start, as the big man’s pace makes him a valuable commodity defending against the LA break. But coming off the injury, he had trouble keeping up throughout.
"They were both I would say equally as close [fitness-wise]," Kreis said of Olave and Borchers. "Nat felt a little more hesitant about playing and that’s why we chose to go with Olave. The plan was to push Jámison as long as we could. His big question mark was how long his muscle would last before it was just fatigued beyond the point of being able to help the group.
"The plan was to start Jámison, go as long as he could, and then bring Borchers in for him. Obviously when you’re down a goal and pressing for things, you don’t want to have to do that. That plan was made, of course, thinking positively that we would have a lead to protect."
That lead never materialized for RSL, and LA punished them with repeated counters in the second half.
“His speed is so integral to this team in terms of how we want to defend,” admitted Borchers.
On the night, it just wasn't enough.