August 24 – Lionel Messi has only been playing in the country a month but already he has won a major trophy and has now steered Inter Miami to their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final and a shot at a second championship title this season.
At the weekend Inter Miami beat Nashville on penalties in the final of the Leagues Cup. On Wednesday night it took penalties again to overcome FC Cincinnati at a sold-out TQL Stadium and qualify for their second championship match of the season.
The only surprise was that Messi didn’t score in open play. He did however provide the two crucial assists for Leonardo Campana to drag Miami back from a 2-0 deficit and force the match into extra time. And, of course, he scored his penalty, Inter Miami’s first, in the shoot out after the match ended 3-3.
Inter Miami will now face Houston Dynamo on September 27 – Houston beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 in their semi-final.
On a boiling hot night of anticipation and a heat index temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Inter Miami and Cincinnati put on a show that matched expectations.
Lucho Acosta put Cincinnati ahead in the 18th minute and Brandon Vazquez doubled the lead on 53 minutes.
Inter Miami came to life and struck back through a Messi set piece that found Leonardo Campana who headed home from six yards. It wasn’t until the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time that Inter Miami equalised and it was another piece of Messi magic. Working again from the left side of midfield, Messi delivered another pinpoint cross for Campana, who rose above the defence to head home and send the match into extra time.
Josef Martínez gave Inter Miami a 3-2 lead in the 93rd minute, before FC Cincinnati’s Yuya Kubo scored a 114th minute equalizer and set up the penalty shoot-out.
Both sides scored their first four penalties before Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender saved the fifth-round attempt from Cincinnati’s Nick Hagglund. Benjamin Cremaschi converted to send Inter Miami through and keep Messi Mania rolling.
In the past month and two days, Messi has played eight times, scored 10 goals, added two more in penalty shoot-outs and contributed two assists.
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