Lionel Messi Scores Two As Inter Miami Advances to MLS Leagues Cup Quartfinal.
Lionel Messi Scores Two As Inter Miami Advances to MLS Leagues Cup Quartfinal
The burgeoning bromance between North America’s two top soccer leagues takes an exciting new twist this year as the Leagues Cup expands into a bombastic 47-team tournament featuring every MLS and Liga MX club. Lionel Messi made his long-awaited debut for Inter Miami CF in the tournament on Sunday night.
Lionel Messi Scores
Lionel Messi continued his scorching start in MLS on Wednesday night, grabbing a brace in Inter Miami’s 3-1 Leagues Cup victory over Orlando City. The 2022 World Cup winner has now scored five times in three games for the new club since his MLS debut July 21.
Against Orlando, Messi scored within the first 10 minutes, as he collected a pass from Josef Martinez in front of goal and fired a low shot past Orlando keeper Pedro Galles into the left corner of the net. The goal put the game in Miami’s favor, though Orlando rallied twice in regulation to force extra time.
After a 95-minute delay for thunderstorms, Messi drew the crowd into a frenzy early in the second half with his second goal of the evening. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner received a pass from Robert Taylor in the penalty box, chested it down and flicked it over Orlando goalkeeper Maarten Paes to make it 3-0.
Inter Miami Advances to Quarterfinals
The Herons trailed 4-2 in the 69th minute, but Messi stepped up to take on a free kick placement from about 30 yards out. Herons fans exploded, and Messi was left to applaud them as the Herons advanced to the quarterfinals. The Herons will play the winner of FC Dallas and Charlotte in a Friday or Saturday match at DRV PNK Stadium.
Inter Miami is in a good position to challenge for the playoffs this season. The team entered the midseason break in last place, 12 points adrift of DC United in the final post-season spot. But with the addition of Messi, things are looking up. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has already scored five goals in three games since his MLS debut. And he could add more to that total on Friday or Saturday.
In his first Leagues Cup start for Inter Miami, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored two goals in 22 minutes to give his new club a comfortable win. The 36-year-old opened the scoring on a well-timed lobbed through ball from former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets that saw him hit the post before thumping home the rebound.
Five minutes from the end, he set up teenage substitute Benjamin Cremaschi to score with a low drive and then curled a free-kick superbly into the top corner with less.
In the shootout, which featured a total of 12 kicks, Messi won the coin toss and made the opening kick to hand the match to his side. Paxton Pomykal missed for Dallas and then Cremaschi coolly slotted home the winning penalty as Inter Miami advanced to the quarter-finals. The Argentine star has now scored five goals in three games since making his MLS debut.
Inter Miami’s Penalty Shootout Win
After a scoreless first half, the Argentine starred again in the second period. Alba centered from the left and Messi smashed a one-timer to the bottom corner for the 2-0 lead. The goal was initially ruled offside but the decision was overturned on video review.
A wild finish ensued in the final minutes with two own goals from Dallas and Inter Miami. It looked like Messi would taste his first loss in the Red Bull Stadium but a crazy Marco Farfan own goal and a moment of inspiration from the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner with his trade mark free kick sent the game into extra time.
The shootout followed and Miami converted all of their spot kicks including Messi and Busquets. They will now play the winner of Charlotte and Houston in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals on Friday night at DRV PNK Stadium. It’s a big win for Tata Martino’s team and it’s clear that the world is getting to know a different side of Lionel Messi.