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As I tweeted during the match, the theme of this evening's friendly match between Manchester United and Barcelona was "Quality, not Quantity." And boy, was that ever the case in the second half, which saw long stretches of inactivity (mostly brought about by Barca's deliberate, short-passing possession game) broken up by two brilliant goals.
Let's start with Barcelona's equalizer, which came in the 70th minute through Thiago Alcantara. But after this goal, I think it's OK to give him the Brazilian treatment and just call him Thiago. After all, he is the son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho.
As good as that was by Thiago, the giveaway by Sergio Busquets that led to Manchester United's winning goal was, well, bad. Busquets' attempted pass just skidded loosely through the midfield, where it was picked up by young Tom Cleverley. Cleverley did what he was supposed to do and got the ball to Michael Owen. Owen, in turn, did what he was supposed to do and finished the break with a lovely chip over Victor Valdes.
Like I said, quality not quantity. Though that statement certainly doesn't apply to this.
Manchester United scored a second counter-attacking goal of the evening, this one from Michael Owen, to propel themselves over FC Barcelona 2-1in a tremendously entertaining match in front of 81,807 FedEx Field Saturday night.
Trailing 1-0 entering the second half, Barcelona had equalized in the 70th minute through Thiago Alcantara, who received a short pass from substitute Carlos Carmona, took a couple of strides through United's midfield, and let fly with a shot from about 20 yards that flew into the top left corner of David De Gea's net. Thiago had nearly scored four minutes earlier after playing a neat one-two with Andres Iniesta. Iniesta's return pass was lofted over the top of the United defense to the waiting Thiago and it was a very alert play by De Gea to divert the ball over the bar.
But Barcelona did not stay on level terms for very long. Six minutes after Thiago's thunderbolt, Tom Cleverley tracked down a loose pass in midfield and sent away Owen, who had come on for Wayne Rooney at halftime. Unlike Nani in the first half, Owen opted for placement instead of power, dinking the ball over the onrushing Victor Valdes and into the net.
But it didn't all go Owen's way, as the former Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Newcastle player had a chance to put the game out of reach in the first minute of stoppage time, but he didn't make good contact with Gabriel Obertan's cross and shanked the ball badly over the bar.
A 22nd minute goal by Manchester United's Nani has the English champions ahead of Spanish and European champions FC Barcelona 1-0 at halftime in front of a sellout crowd at FedEx Field.
United's goal came after a prolonged spell of Barcelona possession. The counterattack was started by striker Danny Welbeck, who received the ball in his own half and sent Nani away with a wonderful through ball. The Portugese midfielder, who television replays showed to be just onside, raced well clear of the Barcelona defense and into the Barcelona penalty area and squeezed a shot past Victor Valdes.
The Catalans have made very few opportunities with their possession, and Ibrahim Afellay provided United with the half's most dangerous moment in the 35th minute when he sent a ball from the left wing past the face of David De Gea's goal. Meanwhile, the Red Devils could have gone one-up in the 10th minute when Wayne Rooney redirected a cross from Nani just wide of Valdes' right post.
The match has been uncommonly physical for a friendly, with Jonathan dos Santos picking up a yellow card in the 30th minute for a late tackle on Ashley Young. One player each has picked up an early injury, with United's Brazilian defender Fabio coming on in place of his twin brother Rafael in the 16th minute after the latter picked up a knock charging down a shot from Seydou Keita. For Barcelona, Affellay limped off in the 43rd minute and replaced by young forward Isaac Cuenca.
Below are the starting lineups for tonight's international club friendly between FC Barcelona and Manchester United at FedEx Field. The match is set to kick-off at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN3.com.
FC Barcelona Starting Lineup: Victor Valdes (GK), Andreu Fontas, Eric Abidal, Thiago Alcantara, Seydou Keita, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Jonathan dos Santos, David Villa, Pedro, Ibrahim Afellay.
Available FC Barcelona Substitutes: Jose Pinto (GK), Jordi Masip (GK), Ivan Balliu, Gerard Pique, Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Jeffren Suarez, Marti Riverola, Maxwell Cabelino, Armando Lozano, Marc Muniesa, Carlos Carmona, Javier Espinosa, Isaac Cuenca.
Available Manchester United Substitutes: Anders Lindegaard (GK), Ben Amos (GK), Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Fabio, Gabriel Obertan, Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park, Mame Biram Diouf, Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda.
For those interested, nine of the Barcelona starting lineup (Valdes, Alves, Abidal, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Keita, and Afellay) played in the UEFA Champions League Final between the two sides back on May 28, while only four of the Manchester United starters (Evra, Vidic, Nani, and Rooney) saw action at Wembley. Barcelona won that match 3-1.
Saturday's exhibition between F.C. Barcelona and Manchester United at FedEx Field will feature many of the stars that make these two teams the best club soccer squads in the world. The very best player on both of these teams, Lionel Messi, will not play, but many other stars will be in the lineup, at least at the beginning of the game.
Paul Tenorio of the Washington Post put together a list of standouts that will be playing in the 7 p.m. game. The headliners for F.C. Barcelona include striker David Villa and midfielder Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. Villa should be familiar for fans who watched the World Cup, as he led Spain to the title. Xavi and Iniesta, meanwhile, are the two unsung heroes of F.C. Barcelona. Iniesta is probably the best passing midfielder in the world, and Xavi is certainly the best holding midfielder in the world.
For Manchester United, well-known English forward Wayne Rooney is the headliner. Rooney has been up and down last season, but he's still the premier English striker. Other standouts include Portugese winger Nani and Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic.
For more on the F.C. Barcelona vs. Manchester United exhibition, including TV information, stay tuned to this StoryStream.
The two best club soccer teams in the world will invade FedEx Field on Saturday night when Champions League winners F.C. Barcelona face runners-up Manchester United. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m., and while some stars, including Lionel Messi, will not play, fans will still be able to see some of the best in the world. Here is some information on where to watch the game on TV and online, and more:
On TV: The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2. Announcers are unclear at this time, but that's where you'll want to watch if you are near a TV.
Where to watch online: If you are near a computer and are able to watch the game this way, you can view it on ESPN3.com.
For those going to the game: The Redskins encourage you to arrive early. The parking lot will be open as early as 3 p.m., and the gates will open at 5 p.m.
For more on the F.C. Barcelona vs. Manchester United, visit SBNation.com.
Washington, D.C. soccer fans will not be able to see the great Lionel Messi play next weekend. In a move that was hardly a surprise, Messi's name was omitted from FC Barcelona's roster for its U.S. tour, which includes a friendly against Manchester United at FedEx Field on Saturday.
Messi was not expected to play because he was playing for Argentina in Copa America earlier in July. Argentina was knocked out early, but FC Barcelona stuck to its word. It will not bring any of its other players from South American countries to the U.S. either.
U.S. soccer fans will have to settle for only seeing greats such as Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and David Villa. Carlos Puyol is traveling, but has an injury. Nine players from Barcelona's B-squad will be promoted for the tour.
Barcelona will play once before taking on Manchester United on Saturday. Manchester United will square off against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday.