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The Manchester United friendly was always about preparing for Portland. Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke made that clear from the beginning of the break.

So how is the team looking after a 2-1 loss to United on Monday night?

"To come out against a team like Man United and go up 1-nothing and be explosive going forward, and definitely balanced going forward as well, I am thrilled. I am thrilled for the guys," Petke said.

For RSL, its Wednesday visit to Portland isn't just another league match. It's a chance to make up ground in the Western Conference standings and capitalize on the club's recent momentum — the road win at the Galaxy followed by the strong, early showing against Man United — which has been so elusive for Real Salt Lake for much of the season.

"Going into the Portland game, starting the second half of the season," midfielder Albert Rusnák said, "… it's not about playing great or something. It's about getting points and trying to get that playoff spot."

RSL (6-12-2, 20 points) sits four points out of the last Western Conference playoff spot, while the Timbers (7-7-6, 27 points) are fourth in the conference.

Road points are at a premium for Real Salt Lake, especially against conference opponents. So of course RSL's sights were set on Portland throughout the break.

"I don't think there will be one moment before the Man. U game that we're prepping for the Man. U game," Petke said in training last week. "We're prepping for the Portland game, and then the Man U game's going to be used as a great game for fitness and to apply some of the things that we want to see in Portland."

Apply, RSL did.

With just 30 minutes on the pitch, the RSL starters took the lead over Manchester United with a 23rd-minute goal by Luis Silva. Red Devils midfielder Henrikah Mkhitaryan equalized just before Real Salt Lake substituted for all 11 players on the field.

Since making his RSL head coaching debut in April, Petke has been slowly molding the team to fit his vision.

"I didn't want to throw too much at the guys," he said. "It had to be a gradual step and a process, and the process came to a head right before the L.A. game where we really started pushing things."

In the 6-2 win against the Galaxy, Petke started to see the style of play he had been hoping for: side-to-side ball movement, building from the back, offensive and defensive balance.

"We talked about getting the ball and moving it quickly, one to two touch, side to side, getting them running," Petke said after Monday's exhibition match. "And to see them do that is one of the joys of coaching because you don't see it all of the time. You put a play down, a tactical plan down, and sometimes you don't see it. But [Monday night], and L.A. and even against Orlando, in the last three games I have seen huge chunks of what we talked about."

RSL striker Yura Movsisyan remained out with a lingering hip issue sustained over the break, Petke said. He remains questionable for Wednesday. —

Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers

At Providence Park, Portland, Ore.

Kickoff • 8:30 p.m.


Radio • 700 AM

Records • RSL 6-12-2, Portland 7-7-6

Last meeting • Portland won 1-0 (Sept. 10 at Providence Park)

About the Timbers • They are missing David Guzman (Costa Rica), Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) Alvas Powell (Jamaica) and Darlington Nagbe (United States) to international duty in the Gold Cup. … Defender Gbenga Orkoyo (Achilles tear) is out for the season. … Jack Barmby (ankle), Liam Ridgewell (quad), and Amobi Okugo (knee) remain out with injuries. …The Timbers' Chance Myers, Vytautas Andriukeviscius and Diego Chara (hamstrings) are questionable for the match. … The Timbers are undefeated (4-0-4) in their last eight matches with RSL.

About RSL • The MLS Disciplinary Committee has suspended midfielder Luke Mulholland for the match. ... RSL's Jordan Allen and Chad Barrett (knee surgeries) remain out. ... Midfielder Omar Holness is still out with a knee injury suffered in training three weeks ago. ... After undergoing ankle surgery last week, forward Ricardo Velazco is expected to miss four months. … RSL's Sunday Stephen (hamstring) and Brooks Lennon (ankle) are questionable for the match. … RSL has not won a match on artificial turf (0-14-5) since its 1-0 conference final win at Portland in November 2013.