By Andrea Canales
As I approached the training area for FC Barcelona, I could hear the excited chatter of the fans clustered around the fencing.
"I can see Iker," said one excitedly. "Casillas is standing by the goal."
I chuckled a little. Unless the biggest transfer of the season had
suddenly and secretly taken place, Casillas was not going to be in California on the
practice field at UCLA with the Blaugrana.
Later that day, team captain Carles Puyol attempted to deflect
attention away from the age-old rivalry of the top two Spanish clubs by
pointing out that there were other good teams in La Liga that Barcelona
would have to be concerned about.
The assembled press stared back at him skeptically, not buying that line for a single second.
It seemed clear that even thousands of miles away from Spain, Barcelona can't escape Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are actually following the Catalan club to the U.S., though
the teams will be on opposite coasts. Real Madrid will play a friendly
versus DC United.
Tonight, though, Barcelona face the club whose name is a slight echo of Real Madrid's famous nickname, los galacticos.
The Los Angeles Galaxy actually claim one member who has lined up
against Barcelona as a player for Real Madrid - David Beckham.
Of course, this off-season Real Madrid garnered a huge number of
headlines by signing the man who had claimed Beckham's old number at
Manchester United - Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid also picked up the star midfielder from AC Milan (where
Beckham was on loan for the first half of the year) the Brazilian Kaka.
Those types of acquisitions are enough to take a bit of the thunder
away from Barcelona, even in a treble-winning year, at least as far as
When the two clubs finally meet once La Liga action starts, it will in some ways be a clash of philosophies.
Though Barcelona has made some noise in past transfer markets, the club is also justly famous for developing players.
"We wouldn't be the team we are without la cantera," said coach Pep
Guardiola, referring to the youth academy of Barcelona that developed
players such as Andres Iniesta.
Real Madrid has brought some impressive players through the ranks as
well, including Raul, but the recent signings seem to make clear that
the academy is not as big a priority as winning in the here and now.
It's a bit of a chess match between the two clubs, and they dance
together in so many comparisons of Spanish club soccer. Thousands
around the world can probably name both clubs easily, but not another single
club in Spain.
Supporters joust over who is the greatest, and a title loss stings all
the more when the other claims it. That's partly why Fiorentino Perez
at Madrid has thrown big money at the problem of not winning a title
Now it's Barcelona's move, and they may be looking to stand pat. Then
again, it's hard to justify any drastic change when the trophies have
yet to collect any dust.
Many eyes of Barca fans will watch tonight's friendly with a bit of
anxiety, wanting to be reassured by the sight of the amazing form,
cohesion and teamwork that the players showed last year.
Some Real Madrid fans may check out the action too, just to keep up on the other half of the rivalry.
Others may have no loyalty to any soccer side, but simply tune in out
of curiosity. Perhaps then a young UCLA student will learn that Victor
Valdes stands guard in goal for Barcelona.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com North America
Keep up on all things MLS with Goal.com!