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Real Salt Lake's Jamison Olave has been named the Major League Soccer defensive player of the year, beating out teammate Nat Borchers and Omar Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

It's the first time an RSL player has won the award.

"Surprise for me," Olave said. "But I was working for that" the past two years. "This year, I have this [trophy], and I'm very happy for that."

The hulking 29-year-old Colombian helped anchor a back line that allowed only 20 goals in 30 games - a league record - and played 2,413 minutes in 27 games. He scored three goals as a dangerous threat on set pieces, and helped RSL record 15 shutouts without ever allowing more than two goals in a game.

His victory reflected well on the entire team, coach Jason Kreis said.

"It speaks volumes for our team, and how we defend," he said, noting that Borchers also was a finalist and Nick Rimando was a finalist for goalkeeper of the year. "For me, that's not about those three players. It's about everybody buying into our system and how we do things."

What's more, Olave reversed his previous reputation as a recklessly physical player.

After receiving three red cards and missing another game with caution accumulation last season, Olave did not receive a red card this season, and was cautioned only eight times.

Still, it was his tremendous physical ability that Kreis believes set him apart.

"You never see him get outrun for a ball," he said. "You never see him get outmuscled for a ball by a forward. So I think it's that bit of his game that sets him apart. I would also say that having Jamison on our team allows us to play probably a little more aggressively defensively than a lot of teams can afford to play, because we're never worried about the ball in behind."