Lionel Messi’s Incredible Start to MLS Life in Miami
Major League Soccer‘s (MLS) Inter Miami pulled off one of the biggest coups in football history when they convinced Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi to join the franchise. The 2022 FIFA World Cup winner’s influence on Inter Miami since arriving on July 15 is there for all to see, with the David Beckham co-owned franchise going unbeaten since his arrival, including winning the Leagues Cup.
The 2023 MLS season looked to be a lost cause for Inter Miami supporters until the arrival of the legendary Messi. After winning their opening two fixtures, Inter Miami lost six consecutive games. They returned to winning ways with three straight victories but have since lost eight and drawn three of the following 11 matches. Beckham’s Miami is rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and the overall standings, as a result.
Something magical happened to Inter Miami on July 15: Lionel Messi signed a mega-money deal after leaving French outfit Paris St. Germain on a free transfer. Messi’s impact on the struggling side was instantaneous, so much so that the biggest and best online California sportsbooks have slashed the odds for Inter Miami winning the coveted MLS Cup despite their precarious league position.
Messi Inspires Inter Miami to its First Trophy
Messi has yet to make his MLS debut but has been a critical component of Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup campaign. The Leagues Cup is an annual competition featuring MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX teams. Messi scored a 94th-minute free kick against Cruz Azul on his Inter Miami debut before bagging a brace in an impressive 4-0 victory over Atlanta United FC.
Two wins from two saw Inter Miami finish top of their Leagues Cup and progress to the competition’s knockout stage. Messi scored twice in a 3-1 dismantling of fellow MLS team Orlando City FC and fired in two goals, including an 85th-minute equalizer, in a thrilling 4-4 draw with FC Dallas. Messi also put away the first penalty as Inter Miami won 5-3 on penalties and progressed to the quarter-finals.
Charlotte FC awaited Inter Miami in the Leagues Cup quarter-finals, and Messi shone again, scoring the fourth and final goal in a 4-0 victory. The Argentinian found himself on the scoresheet again as Inter Miami brushed aside Philadelphia Union 4-1 to reach their first-ever final.
The Leagues Cup final took place on August 19 at Geodis Park, the home of Nashville SC, who beat Inter Miami 2-1 in the corresponding MLS fixture on May 17. Messi put the visitors ahead in the 23rd minute, only for Fafa Picault to equalize for the hosts before the hour mark. The final went to penalties, with Messi tucking away Inter Miami’s first spot-kick. His calming influence was there for all to see as the boys in pink became the 2023 Leagues Cup champion after winning the penalty shootout 10-9!
Messi’s Influence Is There For All To See
Before Messi became an Inter Miami player, the Florida-based team had played 22 MLS regular season fixtures, won five, drawn three, and lost 14. They have scored 22 goals and conceded 36 during those 22 fixtures. However, with Messi in the team, Inter Miami has played seven, won five and drawn two, scored 22 goals, and allowed eight; Messi has scored ten goals in his first seven appearances.
Such is Messi’s ability and his evident influence on his teammates that Inter Miami is now the third-favorite to win the 2023 MLS Cup despite the team being 14 points off the pace for a playoffs wildcard entry with only 12 regular season games to go!
Messi is set to make his MLS debut on August 26 when Inter Miami travel to the New York Red Bulls. Long-standing New York Red Bulls supporters know how it feels when a team signs a superstar player. French legend Thierry Henry played for the New York Red Bulls between 2010 and 2015, scoring 52 goals in 135 appearances. Messi is unlikely to play in as many MLS games as Henry because he is already 36, but he could have an even more significant impact on his team than Henry did.
Inter Miami fans must wait until August 30 to see their mega-star signing in action at their DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. That is when Nashville SC, who Inter Miami defeated in the Leagues Cup final, takes on Messi and Co.
Messi’s Unbelievable Scoring Record
Scoring goals win you football matches, and Messi knows all about putting the ball into the back of the net. During his long and illustrious career, including international appearances for his native Argentina, Messi has played 1,090 professional football games. How many goals has Messi scored? What if we told you that figure was an almost unbelievable 844? That extraordinary sum includes 57 times when Messi has scored at least three goals in the same game.
It is not only scoring goals that Messi brings to a team because he creates goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates, too. Famously unselfish on the football pitch, Messi leads the way on a global scale regarding assists, with 358 passes directly resulting in goals scored by teammates.
Messi has also created countless chances for his team with his mazy runs and the fact teams often double-down on the diminutive Argentinian in an attempt to stop him, which creates space and opportunities for those on his team.
Then there is his vast experience and footballing knowledge that he passes on to his fellow players. Messi has played over 1,000 games at the highest level, against the best opponents in the world, and in high-pressure environments. That experience is something that money cannot buy. Having Messi in the dressing room makes the rest of the Inter Miami squad believe anything is possible. That alone is often enough to get you through challenging times, as Inter Miami finds itself in now.
Beckham’s franchise may be breaking the bank by paying Messi a reported $50 to $60 million per year, but it could turn out to be money well spent if the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner drags Inter Miami out of the doldrums and into the upper echelons of the MLS.
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