Lionel Messi continues to be the driving force behind Inter Miami’s remarkable winning streak.
Fresh off their Leagues Cup victory, a prestigious international competition pitting Major League Soccer against Liga MX, Messi and his team achieved a stunning comeback win in the US Open Cup semifinal against FC Cincinnati. The match culminated in a thrilling penalty shootout.
FC Cincinnati took an early lead at TQL Stadium, courtesy of a Luciano Acosta goal in the 18th minute. After halftime, they expanded their lead when Brandon Vazquez struck from just outside the box in the 53rd minute. The fervent stadium crowd hailed MLS’s top-performing team of the season as players reveled in their success.
However, the momentum shifted in favor of Inter Miami. Leonardo Campana, Inter Miami’s forward, capitalized on a Messi free-kick with a deft header, narrowing the deficit to just one goal. With only a minute of stoppage time remaining, Messi, the Argentine maestro, delivered a masterful cross into the box, where Campana once again emerged as the hero, heading the ball into the net to level the score.
In extra time, about four minutes in, Inter Miami’s striker, Josef Martinez, struck gold, finally giving his club the lead. Yet, FC Cincinnati wouldn’t yield easily, with Yuya Kubo netting the 3-3 equalizer in the 114th minute, sending the contest into a penalty shootout.
As both teams confidently converted their first four spot-kicks, it was Inter Miami’s goalkeeper, Drake Callender, who rose to the occasion, saving Nick Hagglund’s shot. Midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi then sealed the deal with a successful penalty, securing a 5-4 victory for Inter Miami and marking their second-ever final appearance.
Despite not finding the back of the net, Messi contributed significantly to the win, tallying two crucial assists.
Inter Miami is now set to face the Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final on September 27.
The allure of “Messi Mania” transcended soccer fandom, as NFL stars Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, and Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, were in attendance, passionately supporting FC Cincinnati.
Messi’s upcoming fixture is slated for Saturday, as he makes his MLS regular season debut with Inter Miami, traveling to Harrison, New Jersey, to challenge the New York Red Bulls.
It’s worth noting that Inter Miami, previously languishing at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference table prior to Messi’s arrival, faces a challenging journey, trailing by 14 points in their quest for playoff qualification, with only 12 matches remaining in the season.