Lionel Messi scored once more as Inter Miami breezed into the Leagues Cup semifinals, but his influence on this squad extends beyond goal scoring.
In the Leagues Cup quarterfinals, David Beckham’s team defeated Charlotte 4-0 and now seems increasingly likely to take home the trophy. Remember that this is a team that had just two victories in its previous 14 games before the World Cup winner joined them.
The attitude in Miami has completely changed as a result of Messi’s seven goals in four games, which include three straight braces and a few exceptional free kicks. In fact, Miami is in such a strong position right now that it seems as though they don’t even need Messi to win, despite the fact that he had a rather quiet game up until the goal.
The Charlotte defense’s focus on the Argentine caused them to disregard their other responsibilities. This was especially clear when a Charlotte defender who was caught off guard pulled down Josef Martinez in the box.
And exactly like the previous time, captain Messi allowed Martinez to take the field goal shot. Since joining the squad from Atlanta United this season, the Venezuelan has had difficulty scoring, but Messi’s double-duty is slowly improving his stats. He scored from the penalty spot, giving him seven goals in 28 games.
Miami increased its advantage by two points just after the halfway point when Robert Taylor successfully crossed the goal line following some excellent play from DeAndre Yedlin. Although Charlotte had opportunities to tie the score, Adilson Malanda’s goal into his own net put an end to any hopes of a comeback.
Despite having no statistical connection to this goal, Messi was a key contributor. He precisely timed his pass out wide to the runner who was overlapping while moving the ball forward. When the cross came in, Malanda was scrambling to block a possible goal, but instead the defender scored his own goal.
Then, Messi added the finishing touch for Inter Miami by scoring his eighth goal in five contests. He has now scored more goals than any other player in the Leagues Cup’s history, which is in its second season. He also trails Miami’s all-time leading scorer Gonzalo Higuain by just 21 goals.
After the win, Sergio Busquets, a fellow summer signing, said candidly about reuniting with his former Barelona teammate: “We played with each other for a very long time together, but it’s beautiful to play together again, and we understand each other very well on the field.”
Regarding the triumph, he added: “We got off to a tremendous start, up by two goals. Once we saw we had that advantage, we let up a little. A little bit more back-and-forth action occurred in the game, but we came out strong in the second half and increased our lead.