SEATTLE — In one motion, Lionel Messi settled the arcing pass off his chest and used his left foot to split the legs of once the top goalkeeper in America.
Perhaps the world’s best player, on arguably the world’s best team put on a display of dominance Wednesday night.
Blinding in his nuclear peach uniform, Messi scored twice in the first half and FC Barcelona continued its preseason tour of the U.S. with a 4-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders FC.
Messi beat Seattle keeper Kasey Keller in the 21st minute with a left-footed punch from outside the penalty box that Keller only got a fingertip on.
Twenty minutes later, Messi gathered Xavi’s perfectly judged crossing pass about 8 yards out and in one move split Keller’s legs with his left foot. Messi is picking up right where he left off a year ago when he scored 38 goals in league and tournament play.
Many in the crowd of 66,848, the largest to see a soccer match in Seattle, craved more Messi and fellow Barca stars Thierry Henry and Xavi, but only got one half as the reigning holders of the Treble — La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles — continued its exhibition tour. FCB beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 last Saturday and will wrap up the three-match trip on Sunday against CD Chivas de Guadalajara in San Francisco.
The only downside for Barcelona came before the match when central defender Rafael Marquez tore a muscle in his left calf during training Wednesday morning and will miss 10 to 15 days. That means the Mexican captain likely won’t play against the United States in a key World Cup qualifier on Aug. 12 in Mexico City.
But for 45 minutes, and even during its preseason, Barcelona’s first 11 showed why the team is the current king of Europe.
Barcelona outshot Seattle 16-3, peppering Keller the entire first half with precision, creative passing leading to a constant flow of scoring attempts. Henry had scoring chances, as did emerging 18-year-old Bojan Krkic. Messi nearly netted a hat trick, but his chip shot past a charging Keller in the 39th minute kissed off the far post and stayed out.
Jeffren Suarez scored in the 75th minute and Pedro Rodriguez in the 89th minute.
The match meant little to Seattle, which has an important MLS contest on Saturday night at Real Salt Lake. That’s why regulars like Keller and Freddie Ljungberg played just the first half. Ljungberg, who missed last Sunday’s MLS match at San Jose after dealing with a severe migraine during last week’s MLS All-Star game, had Seattle’s best scoring chance early in the match.
Barcelona reserve keeper Jose Manuel Pinto let a sloppy pass roll up the middle of the penalty area and right to Ljungberg’s feet. The Swedish star settled the ball, but his right-footed shot went wide of the net. The Sounders, who lost to Chelsea 2-0 in another international exhibition on July 18, have just one goal in five matches.