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Real Salt Lake strengthens bonds with Real Madrid

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While bond measures and stadium financing dominated much of Saturday's press conference with Dave Checketts, the Real Salt Lake owner did insert a little snippet that should excite soccer fans.

In addition to confirming that Real Madrid will indeed be coming to Salt Lake City on Aug. 12 to play an exhibition game, assuming it finishes in the top two in the Spanish First Division, he also revealed RSL's long-rumored partnership with the European power.

"We're pursuing a permanent sister-team relationship with Real Madrid," said Checketts. "We're actually talking with them about handling all of their U.S. rights, licensing, merchandising, television. They need an American partner.

"The benefits will be that Real Salt Lake in the future will be able to train at Real Madrid's practice facilities, and Real Madrid will come here to play on a regular basis."

Perhaps the most exciting thing for the future of soccer in the Beehive State is Real Madrid's desire to become RSL's partner in the construction of a soccer academy in Utah.

Major League Soccer's board of governors recently passed a bylaw that rewards clubs who build their own soccer academies. As a result, MLS teams will retain the rights to any player developed in those academies, and Madrid wants to become RSL's partner with the construction of its academy.

In regard to the Aug. 12 exhibition game with Real Madrid, Checketts still isn't sure where the game will be played. He is, however, leaning toward LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo because it's a natural grass playing surface and it seats 20,000 more people.

"Real Madrid is not going to play on a temporary grass or fake grass," said Checketts.

With two games remaining in the Spanish season, Real Madrid sits in second place, one point ahead of Valencia. If it finishes second, the August international friendly is a done deal. If Madrid finishes third, RSL's contingency plan is a game with an Italian First Division team.

LATE SCRATCH: Salt Lake left back Daniel Torres, who early in the week complained of pain in his left knee, was a late scratch from the RSL line-up.

Torres, who had started the first five games for RSL, was replaced in the line-up by rookie Willis Forko.

"I thought Willis did well," said RSL coach John Ellinger.

The Houston native was a second-round supplemental draft pick for RSL in January. Having played in three reserve games prior to his MLS debut Saturday, Forko said he felt at home the entire game.

"I felt comfortable. It wasn't a last-minute thing because we knew Danny maybe wasn't going to play, so I was just prepared myself expecting to play," said Forko.

The rookie wasn't the only RSL player who made his debut.

In the 84th minute, in a desperate attempt by Salt Lake to net an equalizer, Christian Jimenez came on for Carey Talley.

WHAT MIGHT'VE BEEN: Salt Lake could've really used Jason Kreis' finishing.

On a night no one could put a quality shot on goal, having MLS' all-time leading scorer on the field could've helped.

"It's always an impact not to have Jason," said Ellinger, about his striker who was suspended for his red card last week. "You finally get him back to starting at forward, and again, it's his leadership and willingness to die for the franchise. You miss him when he's not out there."

He will be back in the line-up for RSL heads to Los Angeles next week.

FOREIGN TERRITORY: Despite Real's winless streak, midfielder Chris Klein insists the team can turn things around.

"We're 0-5-1, and I've never experienced things like this, and to be honest, I don't think this is a bad team." said Klein. "That's the most frustration thing about this whole thing, I've been on bad teams before, and I don't think this is a bad team."

He knows, however, that the team will ultimately be defined by wins and losses, not how the team plays.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com