Barcelona defeats LA Galaxy in 2015 International Champions Cup, 2-1

July 22, 2015

Pasadena, Calif. -- Barcelona started its 2015-2016 season with an impressive 2-1 win over the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a sellout Rose Bowl crowd of 93,236 -- an attendance record for a game involving an MLS team.

Despite not having stars Neymar, Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Claudio Bravo, and Javier Mascherano, all of whom were resting after national team duties in Copa America 2015, Barcelona did just enough to get the win, scoring once during each half with Luis Suarez's goal in the 45th minute, and Sergi Roberto's goal in 54th minute.

Suarez, who won the Man of the Match award, took an opportunistic overhead pass from Marc Bartra and slotted a goal in the last minute of the first half. Prior to that, Barcelona produced a number of chances, but were unable to break an organized Los Angeles defense.

The Galaxy, who were also missing a number of key players due to 2015 Gold Cup participation, were determined not to get blown out in their backyard. Although Los Angeles gave up an early second half goal caused by a patented Andres Iniesta penetration -- Roberto pounced on a blocked Iniesta shot on the play -- the Galaxy's stout defense nevertheless held off the Barca attack for the remainder of the night.

The Galaxy offense even built a number of chances in the second half.  In particular, Edson Buddle and Bradford Jamieson IV attacked the middle of the Barca defense once Sergio Busquets was substituted by Sergi Samper at halftime. Their efforts were rewarded with a header by Tommy Meyer off of a corner kick by Mika Vayrynen in the last minute of regulation time.

Coming off a massively successful 2014-2015 campaign where Barcelona captured its second treble (La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and UEFA Champions League) in history, it will likely be difficult for second-year head coach Luis Enrique to find ways to motivate a largely similar squad from the previous season.

Unlike last summer after the World Cup 2014, there are far fewer spectacular transfer signings this time around for Enrique's team.

Barcelona, however, did acquire Arda Turan, the Turkish captain and one of the top 50 players in Europe, from Atletico Madrid.  Turan will not be eligible to play until January 2016 because of the FIFA-imposed transfer ban for breaching FIFA rules on the transfer of players under age 18. Barcelona has indicated that Turan will not be loaned to keep him playing during the ban period.

There have been only handful of teams who have won the seasonal treble, with Barcelona doing it twice. However, no European team has accomplished the feat twice in a row.

Much like the 2009-2010 Barcelona squad, and also the 2013-2014 Bayern Munich team, Barcelona will be favored to win it again. Both of those prior teams fell short in the Champions League semifinal.

Last year's Barcelona team itself did not have a particularly dominating run, losing four La Liga games and two Champions League games. Still, they did have one of the most dominating trio of attackers of all time in Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez, who tallied 58, 39, and 25 goals, respectively. In addition, the always reliable Pedro was also potent enough to score 10 goals off the bench.

In Tuesday's game, Luis Enrique seemed keen to add one more attacking option by moving midfielder Rafinha forward. He appeared ready to put in the work, with plenty of strong runs to the penalty box. With the retirement of former captain Xavi, Rafinha will see more minutes this year.

The Barcelona midfield was also quite special given how they consistently controlled the middle third while playing an aggressive 4-3-3 formation. Among starters Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, and Sergio Busquets, Iniesta is the most offensive-minded, while Busquets is the most defensive-oriented. Busquets is probably the one most difficult to replace because of his experience, and his ability to win back balls and cover the backline.

But if there is a place one could nitpick, it would be along the backline, particularly down the middle. Even though the starters have been there for years, it is not impossible to see Pique and Mascherano having their hands full against talented attackers or in counterattack situations.

One thing that Luis Enrique was able to do last year was to give key minutes to his bench players, allowing the starters to stay fresh at the end of the season. This bodes well for players such as Rafinha, and defenders Jeremy Mathieu and Marc Bartra, who proved their worth last year.

Given the depth of the team, this year's edition of Barcelona may actually be good enough to match last year's hardware.

By Christian Siagian
Contributing Writer for

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