Jámison Olave (left) and defending champs RSL open their title defense in San Jose.
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Match Preview: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake

The basics

Real Salt Lake (0-0-0) vs.  San Jose Earthquakes (0-0-0) at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

All-time record: San Jose leads the series, 3-2-4 (2-1-2 since the Quakes were reborn in 2008)

TV info

9 p.m. ET; Fox Soccer Channel, DirectKick

What’s at stake?

It’s Real Salt Lake’s first match wearing the bull’s-eye affixed to every defending champion, and a chance to work on last season’s poor 2-11-2 mark away from home. San Jose, meanwhile, needs to prove to its fans that all the work the team has put into fixing its defense has actually paid dividends.

Last meeting

Real Salt Lake came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw in second-half stoppage time despite being down a man. Arturo Alvarez had put San Jose up in the 63rd minute, but Yura Movsisyan broke in on a desperate RSL counterattack, and his ball trickled off Earthquakes defender Chris Leitch for a game-tying own goal.

Heroes and villains

Bobby Convey vs. Kyle Beckerman: They won’t necessarily be going head-to-head, but the stars of each team’s midfield reflect the importance of the battle between the two groups. Beckerman and RSL will want to dominate play centrally, while the Quakes feel they must get the ball outside to Convey, now at his most natural position on the left wing, and Alvarez, who’s expected to start wide right. If the ball stays up the middle, San Jose’s offense could be short-circuited.

Ike Opara vs. Robbie Findley: Findley is coming off a 12-goal season for RSL and is even more of a focal point now with Movsisyan having decamped for Denmark. Opara, meanwhile, is trying to establish himself as the Earthquakes’ catch-all in central defense despite spending an inordinate amount of time in the air. The No. 3 overall pick in this year’s SuperDraft has to go back to Wake Forest for classes until at least late April.

Stat that makes you go, “Hmmm”

RSL coach Jason Kreis is still tied for his club’s record of lifetime goals against San Jose, with two.

He said it

“I do read the newspapers, and Soccer America, some of these things. When they say our midfield is the 14th best, it’s frustrating when you look at Bobby Convey, Arturo Alvarez, Javier Robles and André Luiz. I think that’s a pretty good midfield in this league.” -- San Jose general manager John Doyle