Messi brace helps Barca beat Seattle

SEATTLE: Lionel Messi scored the opening two goals as Barcelona beat the Seattle Sounders 4-0 in a pre-season friendly match on Wednesday.

In a dominant performance by the reigning European champions, Barcelona required their top players for only half the game to beat the Major League Soccer club and extend their winning pre-season form. Messi beat Seattle keeper Kasey Keller in the 21st minute with a left-footed punch from outside the penalty box that the former Tottenham stopper only got a fingertip on.

Twenty minutes later, Messi gathered Xavi’s perfectly judged cross about eight yards out and in one move split Keller’s legs with his left foot shot. Messi’s pre-season form indicates he will pick up right where he left off at the end of a 2008-09 season when he scored 38 goals as Barcelona won the unprecedented treble of Champions League, Spanish Liga and Spain’s Copa del Rey.

Barcelona beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 last on Saturday and will wrap up the three-match trip on Sunday against Mexico’s Guadalajara in San Francisco.

Wednesday’s win was tarnished by the loss of central defender Rafael Marquez, who tore his left calf muscle in training and will miss upto 15 days. It also means Mexico’s captain will likely miss a home World Cup qualifier against the United States on August 12.

The scoring was completed by fringe squad members Jeffren Suarez in the 75th minute and Pedro Rodriguez in the 89th. The match meant little to Seattle, which have an important MLS game on Saturday at Real Salt Lake. That’s why regulars like Keller and Freddie Ljungberg played just the first half.

Former Arsenal winger Ljungberg 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. The Sounders, who lost to Chelsea 2-0 in another friendly on July 18, have scored just one goal in five matches.