Goals from Luis Suarez and Sergi Roberto lifted Barcelona to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday that manager Luis Enrique called an encouraging start to the European Champions’ North American tour.
Uruguay international Suarez came out on top in a clash with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard — the Galaxy’s latest acquisition from Europe.
His 45th-minute strike and Roberto’s 56th-minute goal ensured that even without such stars as Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar — let off the pre-season tour after Copa America duty — Barcelona got the win their dominant performance deserved in front of 93,226 fans at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.
It was the largest crowd ever to watch a match featuring a Major League Soccer club.
“Based on what a first game of the pre-season looks like, considering we’ve only had about seven days of practice, a lot of traveling, overall I feel very positive,” the coach said. “Overall, our players look good.”
Barcelona, preparing to defend their La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League treble, effectively neutralized any threat from Gerrard and Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane, while pressing relentlessly themselves.
They were finally rewarded in the 45th minute when Suarez fired a left-footed shot past Galaxy keeper Brian Rowe after Rafinha’s deflected cross was moved on by Marc Bartra.
Suarez had been off-target from the center of the area in the 11th and from long range in the 23rd, while Rowe made a diving save of Roberto’s attempt from outside the box in the 35th.
“I’m happy with the way the team played, with the level, the intensity,” Luis Enrique said, while stressing that “everything can be better.”
Both teams made wholesale changes at the break, with Suarez among the seven Barcelona players to depart and Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique entering the game.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena went even further, but Luis Enrique said such sweeping changes were “logical” for both teams.
His moves allowed him to give more of his men a chance to get back into the groove, while he felt his opposite number Bruce Arena was wise to avoid excessive wear and tear on key players like Gerrard and Keane with his team in the midst of their MLS title defence.
Arena was delighted to give his younger players — many of them second-teamers — the experience.
“I don’t think Keane and Gerrard need these games as much as the young kids need the experience,” Arena said.
“You can tell them a lot of things, but until they actually step on the field and experience it against quality players, they don’t fully comprehend. Tonight for our young players it was an invaluable experience.”
The changes didn’t slow Barca, with Douglas going close in the 47th minute and Pique testing substitute Galaxy keeper Andrew Wolverton in the 53rd after a pass from Munir.
Munir also helped set up Roberto’s 56th-minute strike from the edge of the box — which brought joyous cheers of “Barca! Barca!” from the crowd.
– Man United next for Barca –
The minority of Galaxy fans in the stands, on a balmy night in the foothills northeast of Los Angeles, had few real scoring chance to cheer, although Tommy Meyer grabbed a consolation goal in the first minute of injury time, heading in from close range.
The Galaxy now head back into MLS action, visiting the Dynamo in Houston on Sunday.
Barcelona next travel up the coast to take on Manchester United on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“In three days we’ll have to be better,” said Luis Enrique, whose team complete their US swing against English champions Chelsea on July 28 in suburban Washington DC before playing Fiorentina in Florence on August 2. – Agence France-Presse