PASADENA, Calif. - The crowd of nearly 94,000 on hand at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was the largest to watch a soccer game in the U.S. since the 1994 World Cup.
They were treated to an entertaining soccer match between FC Barcelona and the Los Angeles Galaxy, one that may have seen the redemption of David Beckham, at least as far as Galaxy fans were concerned.
Despite their preseason form, Barcelona still showed their quality, eventually claiming the 2-1 win.
Barcelona started off the first half with silky combination play
orchestrated by Lionel Messi, who was the lynchpin of a side featuring
a host of inexperienced young players, such as Jonahan Dos Santos and
As Barcelona probed for the goal, the speed of the Galaxy on the
counterattack through long passes from David Beckham opened a few
The Galaxy actually had the first shot on goal, when Jovan Kirovski went wide on his attempt in the fourth minute.
However, Barcelona maintained the majority of the possession and they
made it pay off in the 11th minute. Pedro Rodriguez charged into the
box, eluding defender Todd Dunivant and shooting on goal. Backup
goalkeeper Josh Saunders, in for an injured Donovan Ricketts, managed
to stop the shot, but couldn't hold on to the rebound. Messi pounced on
the opportunity, dribbling past a scramblint Saunders and slotting the
ball toward goal. AJ De la Garza was able to reach block that shot as
well, but the rebound fell nicely for a still-lurking Rodriguez, who
tucked the ball straight waway into the net.
In response to the goal, the Galaxy pulled out of their defensive format and pushed forward more in search of the equalizer.
Kirovski had a shot saved by Jose Manuel Pinto in the 14th minute.
Donovan had a notable play in the 29th minute, when he turned and beat
defender Rafael Marquez with a smart move, then sent a long shot on
goal that was deflected out for a corner.
Dunivant was able to reach Beckham's service, but his header attempt was high.
Marquez, who has been recovering from an injury, was subbed out for Adriano Henrique only a minute later.
Barcelona went on a dangerous run of possession as the end of the half
neared, but Saunders was able to come up with three impressive saves,
first on Seydou Kieta in the 38th minute, then Dos Santos in the 41st,
then Messi in the 42nd.
Those saves would prove to be crucial, as the Galaxy earned an
opportunity of their own in the 45th minute. Henrique tackled Donovan
late just outside the box, providing Beckham with a prime opportunity.
Yaya Toure argued the call, earning a yellow for dissent.
Beckham did not waste the chance, stepping forward and burying the free
kick past Pinto. The crowd, which had intermittently booed Beckham up
to that point, roared approval at his effort while Beckham celebrated
with his teammates.
The equalizer sent the two sides into the break level.
After wholesale changed by Guardiola to start the second half,
Barcelona took a little while to get going, but soon began to dominate
Though most of the starters were in for Barcelona, the creative spark
of Messi was missing, and Barcelona were unable to break through, even
as they closed down nearly every opportunity for the Galaxy.
A foul on Xavi by Stefan Miglioranzi led to a quick restart, which
yielded another foul by Gregg Berhalter to stop the play. Xavi stepped
up to the dangerous free kick chance and sent it screaming barely
outside of the goal arc.
As chances for the Galaxy dried up, Beckham dropped further back to try
to get more touches on the ball and get something going with his long
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol did well to get to most of those long balls first, though, negating the Galaxy's attacks.
In the 65th minute, Donovan had enough energy to take off on a long run
from midfield that beat the barcelona defenders into the box, but
Valdes blocked his angled shot.
It was a foolish mistake by the Galaxy that helped set up Barcelona's
winning goal. Goalkeeper Saunders muffed an attempted clearance badly,
sending the ball out of bounds deep in the Galaxy's own half.
Barcelona again took advantage of the half chance - building a play
quickly from the prime position. Sergio Busquets worked a give-an-go
play with Jeffren Suarez and Suarez finished coolly past Saunders for
With the advantage safely in hand, Barcelona put on a possession clinic, limiting the Galaxy's touches severely.
Beckham finally came off in the 87th minute, as Mike Magee subbed in.
A late corner kick was the Galaxy's last gasp to draw level, but that
was snuffed out good Barcelona clearances and the Spanish club claimed
the friendly win at the final whistle.
Andrea Canales, Goal.com
FCB -- Pedro Rodriguez 1 (unassisted) 11
LA -- David Beckham 1 (unassisted) 45
FCB -- Jeffren Suarez 1 (Sergio Busquets ) 67
FCB -- Toure Yaya (caution; Dissent) 44
LA -- Alan Gordon (caution; Reckless Tackle) 54