FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It might have taken Lionel Messi a little longer to deliver the highlight score he has spoiled fans with early during his Inter Miami career. But he eventually delivered and did not disappoint.
Messi scored in the 86th minute to put the icing on Inter Miami’s 4-0 win over FC Charlotte in the Leagues Cup quarterfinal on Friday night at DRV PNK Stadium.
Eight goals in five games – all Inter Miami victories. And now the team is in the final four of the Leagues Cup tournament.
A rarity for a team that sits in last place in the MLS playoff race – before Messi joined the franchise co-owned by soccer legend David Beckham.
“I think that speaks about a moment that has some expectations of doing something important,” said Inter Miami coach Tata Martino, who also coached Messi at FC Barcelona and Argentina, about the team’s prospects in the tournament.
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“I hope we can do something.”
When will Messi play next?
Inter Miami will be on the road against the Philadelphia Union in the Leagues Cup semifinal on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
Messi scored in the first eight minutes of his first three Inter Miami starts. He even one-upped himself – scoring in the eighth, seventh, and sixth minutes – in those games.
But Messi did not need to provide the early theatrics in this one.
Josef Martinez scored on penalty kick in the 12th minutes and Robert Taylor scored in the 32nd as Inter Miami took a 2-0 lead into halftime. An own goal in the 78 minute solidified their lead against a feisty Charlotte team that could not make the most of its opportunities.
And Messi sent the fans home with a score and a smile in the final minutes, once again living up to the Messi Mania hype since joining the Miami MLS side last month.
Martino, who coached Martinez in Atlanta United from 2017-2018, said he has no problem having Messi or Martinez kick in those opportunities.
After all, Martino trusts both players. And Martinez may have needed the involvement in this game more than Messi, who has shined in other matches.
“Whichever one kicks is fine,” Martino said. “At some point we’re going to have this situation and now we’re doing it.”
FC Charlotte coach Christian Lattanzio offered some high praise for Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba – the former FC Barcelona stars now in Miami.
“You bring three players that are the star three players, from a team defined by experts as maybe the best ever, what do you do?” Lattanzio said.
“Plus, when you have Messi, he just needs a chance, one second in the game. And you have to be very sharp to stop him from producing the magic he’s produced since he joined Barcelona when he was 16.”
Lattanzio is high on Inter Miami. He thinks they could win the Leagues Cup. He thinks they could win the U.S. Open Cup, which Inter Miami will play a semifinal game on Aug. 23.
“I don’t know if they ae the clear favorites, but they can win the competition,” Lattanzio said.
And he thinks Inter Miami could make a run from last place to the MLS playoffs when the regular season continues.
“If they find a way to make the playoffs, they can win,” he said.
It was the moment we’ve been waiting more.
Messi’s left boot put the finishing touches on his fifth game with Inter Miami.
Messi was assisted by Leonard Campana in 86’ and Inter Miami’s run with the world’s greatest soccer player continues.
Messi has scored eight goals during his Inter Miami career on the way to his fifth victory.
Leo Messi’s presence was felt, and Inter Miami is less than 20 minutes away from advancing to a Leagues Cup win.
Messi charged the middle, and his pass to Diego Gomez put Charlotte on the brink.
Gomez sent the ball back toward the middle, but a sliding defender – Charlotte’s Adilson Malanda – resulted in an own goal that gave Inter Miami a 3-0 lead late in the second half.
Messi nearly blew the roof – OK, it’s an outdoor pitch – off Inter Miami’s stadium.
Robert Taylor found Messi in the middle of the field, ready for a left boot to excite an otherwise pedestrian second half.
But Messi’s kick was blocked by Charlotte’s Adilson Malanda in 70’.
Messi has been held scoreless so far in his fifth Inter Miami game.
Taylor, who scored in the first half, was later subbed out soon after.
While Messi had a quiet first half by his standards, he and his Inter Miami teammates are a second half away from advancing to the Leagues Cup semifinal.
Josef Martinez and Robert Taylor have scored for Miami during the first half to take a 2-0 lead into the locker rooms.
Messi had one shot on goal, a short kick with his left foot defended with both hands by the goalie, at the 30th minute.
If Inter Miami advances, they’ll face the winner of the Philadelphia Union-Querétaro game, being played tonight. Philadelphia has a 1-0 lead early.
The League Cup semifinals are on Aug. 16.
Messi remains scoreless, but Inter Miami has taken a 2-0 lead on Charlotte.
Robert Taylor scored in the 32nd minute to increase its lead.
Taylor’s right foot found the left corner of the net, becoming his scored his fourth goal in Leagues Cup play.
Taylor received the assist from DeAndre Yedlin.
Well, Messi’s scoring streak in the first 10 minutes ended.
But two minutes later, Inter Miami was on the board.
Josef Martinez scored in the 12th minute on a penalty kick, giving Inter Miami a 1-0 lead, capitalizing on a penalty by Charlotte.
All Inter Miami games are available to watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
But fans in search of a free game to view: Inter Miami’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal game on Aug. 23 will be available to stream on the CBS Sports Golazo Network.
If you’re watching the game tonight, keep an eye out on Messi early.
Messi has scored in the first 10 minutes of the last three games. And he’s scored even faster with each passing game.
- He scored in the eighth minute in his first start.
- He scored in the seventh minute in the next start.
- And he scored in the sixth minute in his last start.
Can Messi score inside five minutes in this one?
Messi is already one of Inter Miami’s all-time leading scorers four games into his stint with the MLS franchise.
With seven goals, Messi is tied for fourth in franchise history with three other players: teammate Josef Martinez, and former Inter Miami players Lewis Morgan and Rodolfo Pizarro.
Messi’s next goal will tie him with teammate Robert Taylor (8) for third in Inter Miami history.
Then, the climb really begins.
Leonardo Campana is second all-time with 16 goals, while Gonzalo Higuain is the all-time leader with 29 goals.
Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba – the former FC Barcelona standouts – will start their second game together with Inter Miami tonight.
Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
Lionel Messi highlights with Inter Miami
Messi has three braces, or two goals scored in each of his last three games. And his first goal in each game has come before the 10-minute mark. So, Inter Miami has gotten off to fast starts in games Messi has started.
Messi’s last game out, his first road game in Dallas, he scored on a free kick in the 85th minute to complete Inter Miami’s comeback in a 4-4 tie that went to penalty kicks. Inter Miami edged Dallas 5-3 in PKs.
Messi also hit the game-winning goal in his Inter Miami debut in extra time.
Messi has played the entire game in each of his last two games for Inter Miami. He came off the bench in his debut, and lasted until 78’ in his second game.
If Inter Miami wins tonight, it will face the Philadelphia Union-Querétaro winner in the semifinals on Aug. 16.
If Inter Miami is eliminated from the Leagues Cup, the team’s next scheduled game is Aug. 23 against FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup.
The quarterfinals are being held Friday. The semifinals will be on Aug. 16. The final and third-place game will be held on Aug. 19.
The other quarterfinal matchups are:
Philadelphia Unions vs. Querétaro F.C., 8 p.m. ET
Nashville SC vs. Minnesota United, 8:30 p.m.
Los Angeles FC vs. C.F. Monterrey, 10:30 p.m.
What is Inter Miami’s 2023 MLS schedule?
- Aug. 20: vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Aug. 23: at FC Cincinnati (U.S. Open Cup), 7 p.m. ET
- Aug. 26: at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Aug. 30: vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 3: at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 9: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 16: at Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 20: vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 24: at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 30: vs. New York City Fc, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 4: at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 7: vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 21: at Charlotte FC, 6 p.m. ET