Lionel Messi (36, Inter Miami) doesn’t belong in his weight class. He has already made history for Inter Miami, as well as the American Major League Soccer (MLS).
Messi has led the last-place team to the quarterfinals of a cup competition. In the round of 16 of the 2023 North American League Cup against FC Dallas on July 7, he scored two goals to rescue Inter Miami from the brink of defeat. In the ensuing penalty shootout, he calmly converted the first kick to advance to the quarterfinals.
Inter Miami is one of the MLS’s underdogs. They have just five wins (three draws and 14 losses) through 22 rounds of regular season play in the Eastern Conference. Dead last out of 15 teams. Even the Western Conference has the fewest points this year.
To get out of last place, owner David Beckham made a move. The club has been completely transformed since the savvy signing of Messi. With the addition of Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, Inter Miami has taken a leap forward. The centerpiece, of course, is Messi. Messi was immediately named captain and provided leadership.
He’s transformed the team. Messi has scored in four straight games in an Inter Miami jersey. Messi made his Inter Miami debut against Cruz Azul on March 22, scoring the winner from a free kick in second-half stoppage time.
Messi followed up his debut goal with a two-goal, one-assist one-man show against Atlanta United four days later. Once in the tournament, Messi remained on his toes. After a multi-goal performance against Orlando City in the Round of 32, he added two more against Dallas.
The round of 16 against Dallas was a drama. Messi opened the scoring in the first six minutes, but Inter Miami’s defense was a problem. Unable to protect Messi’s goal, Inter Miami surrendered three goals. Benjamin Kramaski’s comeback goal was canceled out by an own goal to make it 2-4.
Five minutes to go. Messi was on fire. Linking up with Busquets, he drew an own goal to cut the deficit to one, then scored a dramatic equalizer in the 40th minute with a free kick from some distance. Even if the free kick was accurate, the opponents were stunned by the soccer godliness of converting a last-chance goal.
In the penalty shootout, Messi stepped up to take the first kick and put the game out of reach. With Messi’s goal and the rest of the team’s goals, Inter Miami swept Dallas and advanced to the quarterfinals. Inter Miami, 메이저놀이터 who were a long shot to make it out of the group stage based on their MLS record, are now the favorites to win the tournament.
This is largely due to the presence of Messi. Messi has exploded for seven goals in four games in an Inter Miami uniform. That’s more than any other team this season. Previously, Josef Martinez was the leading scorer with seven goals in 28 games, but Messi has become the team’s top scorer this season after just four games.
He’s also already moved into the club’s all-time goals list. Inter Miami is a new club, founded in 2018, so it doesn’t have much of a history, but Messi’s seven goals rank fourth on the club’s all-time goals list. The all-time leader is Gonzalo Higuain, who retired from Inter Miami with 29 goals.