From sea to shining sea: FC Barcelona players in Philadelphia

From sea to shining sea: FC Barcelona players in Philadelphia

Part two of a series examining the links between Barça and US cities hosting matches at this summer’s Copa América Centenario takes us to the east coast and the nation's birthplace

If you asked the average person around the world if they knew anything about Philadelphia, a majority of replies would mention either Rocky, the (cream) cheese, a certain Bruce Springsteen song, or “that bell with a crack in it.”

Few, if any, would venture to say that FC Barcelona has anything to do at all with the so-called City of Brotherly Love.

But that’s not to say the two have nothing in common.

The Linc link

Bridging the 3,900 mile gap is the home stadium of the Philadelphia Eagles: Lincoln Financial Field, aka The Linc.

Even though The Linc is a football stadium (that’s American football, for those outside the United States and Canada) the first event ever held there was actually a soccer match.

On August 3, 2003, Barça fell to Manchester United, 3–1, in a preseason friendly.

The Catalans, led by first-year manager Frank Rijkaard, fielded a starting lineup consisting of a bona fide who’s who of Barça history.

Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés manned the net that day. A young Carles Puyol anchored the defense.

The midfield featured current Barça B head coach Gerard López; current Barça first team manager, Luis Enrique; and a man many believe might one day return to take over that same role, the legendary Xavi Hernández.

Not enough star power for you? Consider this: a newcomer and marvel named Ronaldinho led the attack.

Curiously, Manchester United was the team FC Barcelona beat out to sign the talented Brazilian striker, who would go on to become the face of the Club in the mid-2000s while leading it into an epoch of glory that, to this day, has yet to subside.

Fast forward: 2016

The biggest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth largest in the United States, Philadelphia is one of the ten lucky sites hosting games in this summer’s Copa América Centenario.

Accordingly, FC Barcelona’s unofficial role of world national team-provider-in-chief all but ensures its representation in America’s birthplace.

Philadelphia has been graced with three group stage matches. Two of them had the potential to feature FC Barcelona players. It turned out, however, that just one did.

South American stars

On June 9, Barça striker Luis Suárez, the 2015/16 Golden Shoe winner, who was questionable due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the May 22 Copa del Rey, did not play. Suárez's team, Uruguay, fell to Venezuela, 1–0, in Group C action at The Linc. The loss mathematically eliminated Uruguay, despite the fact that they had one more match remaining. Uruguay beat Jamaica on June 13 at Levi's Stadium. Suárez also missed Uruguay's first match — a 3–1 loss to Mexico.

Thus, the only Barça player who came to Philadelphia this summer was goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who was named the tournament’s top keeper in last year’s edition. Bravo is Chile’s captain and played all 90 minutes in their 4–2 win over Panama in Group D action.

Força Barça
Força Barça

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