The Sounders FC had the unique opportunity Wednesday night of measuring up against the best club in the world. And while Seattle record 66,848 fans in attendance got a great show from Lionel Messi, the Sounders didn’t back down from the challenge. In the end the UEFA Champions League winning club was on top 4-0.
“I didn’t want to develop a tactical game plan,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We wanted the fans to enjoy Barcelona as they are and enjoy our team as they are. They saw a great game and some great goals and a Sounders team that played hard.”
Messi scored two dazzling first-half goals and Jeffren Suarez and Pedro Rodriguez extended the lead with goals in the second half for the final tally. But the final score gives little indication to the quality of play, the lessons learned or the entertainment value of the friendly match.
“We’re realistic. We know where we’re at and we’re an expansion team that’s getting to know each other,” Schmid said. “There were some positive things for us to gain. It’s not punishment it’s learning and continuing to get better because someday they might want to play at that level. Tonight we played the elite of the elite.”
One thing learned was that new left back Leonardo Gonzalez is a solid player and a fine addition to the Sounders FC lineup. Playing in his first match in rave green, Gonzalez was lined up for much of the first half against Messi and fared quite well. But maybe more impressive than his defensive play was the havoc he caused pushing forward.
In just the third minute of play, Gonzalez slipped his way through the midfield and passed a ball off to the middle to Freddie Ljungberg for a runout. Ljungberg found Nate Jaqua going up the left side and Jaqua cut the ball back to the middle before taking the game’s first shot, which was saved by starting Barcelona keeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
Barcelona returned the pressure one minute later when Andreu Fontas ripped off a shot from the middle that Sounders keeper Kasey Keller knocked away. Bojan Krkic regained control and got another shot from the right side that Keller grabbed for another save.
Messi finally broke through in the 21st minute. Xavi found Messi in open space at the top of the circle and Messi took one touch before blasting it across his body into the corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Argentine sensation Messi nearly scored his second goal in the 39th minute, but his chip shot over Keller was cleared away from the goal and off the goalpost for a clearance by Tyrone Marshall.
Messi did complete the brace in the 41st minute, though. Thierry Henry took the ball up the right side and passed to Xavi. He chipped the ball to Messi, who chested the ball down and poked it past Keller in stride for his second goal, putting FC Barcelona up 2-0.
“You see him on TV all the time, I see him every day,” FC Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola said. “He is the best in the world not only for his youth, but also for his ability to dominate all aspects of the game.”
At the half, both teams utilized the whole of their benches, giving everyone who dressed time in the friendly.
Suarez made the score 3-0 with a pop over the head of Terry Boss in the 75th minute. Rodriguez took a rebound a great save by Boss for the final score in the 89th minute.
But the 4-0 tally did not disappoint Schmid.
“It was great. It shows a lot for our city, the city of Seattle. I hope they don’t walk away disappointed,” Schmid said. “I hope they realize they got to watch a great team today. Tonight, some kids got to see Messi and Henry. I hope our fans are proud of the Sounders and realize what we’re doing here by bringing teams of that caliber here to play. That’s not something everybody gets to do.”
Added Guardiola of the record crowd, “It was amazing. Yesterday the owner of the Sounders explained to me the support for his team and we saw that tonight. It was a pleasure for us and for the players to play in the marvelous stadium.”
The Sounders will face Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.