On the journey to the semi-finals, Messi has scored a total of 8 goals in just 5 matches. Inter Miami has also shown an improved performance with each round. In the quarter-finals, they defeated Charlotte FC with a convincing 4-0 scoreline.
However, Philadelphia is a different caliber of opponent. They are the reigning champions of the Eastern Conference in the previous MLS season. In the overall standings, Philadelphia is placed just below the reigning champions Los Angeles due to goal difference.
In this year’s season, Philadelphia is still performing steadily, holding the 3rd position in the Eastern Conference standings. They have double the points of Inter Miami in the bottom position. In their most recent encounter, Philadelphia outplayed Inter Miami with a score of 4-1.
However, this rematch is a different story as Inter Miami now boasts Messi along with Busquets and Jordi Alba.
The match atmosphere is extremely intense. Tickets were sold out in less than 10 minutes after being made available online. As Messi and his teammates step onto the field, they have to endure a fierce barrage of jeers and shouts from the nearly 20,000 spectators in the Subaru Park stadium.
However, just 3 minutes later, the cacophony of jeers subsides due to a magical moment from Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan forward had seemingly endured a lackluster season, scoring only 6 goals in 20 matches in the first half of the year. But in the Leagues Cup, he benefited from two penalties gifted by Messi, and he converted both into goals.
Once he found his “hot streak,” Martinez’s confidence surged, and he began to reclaim his predatory instincts. receiving a long pass from Krivtsov on the home side of the pitch, Martinez controlled the ball and unleashed a precise, angled shot, putting Inter Miami ahead in the 3rd minute.
Once he hit his “hot streak,” Martinez’s mentality eased, and he began to reclaim his instinctual sharpness. receiving a long pass from Krivtsov on the home turf, Martinez broke free to receive the ball and unleashed a precise, decisive shot from a tight angle, putting Inter Miami ahead in the 3rd minute.
In the 20th minute, Martinez turned into the creator of an unexpected masterpiece by Messi. Amid a ball dispute on the field, Martinez managed to direct the ball to Messi’s feet despite being fouled. At that moment, even he probably couldn’t anticipate that his superstar teammate could score a goal from such a remarkable distance.
With virtually no teammates in front of Messi and three opposing defenders to contend with, the Argentine captain decided to unleash a pinpoint shot from a distance of around 30 meters. Messi has executed countless wonders throughout his career, but he rarely takes such long-range shots in a live ball situation.
Messi’s shot was as precise as a laser, sending the ball dipping into the far corner of the opponent’s net. Goalkeeper Andre Blake, despite his best efforts, couldn’t prevent it even with a full-stretch dive. Inter Miami doubled their lead.
After this goal, things became easier for Inter Miami. They adopted a defensive counter-attacking strategy and added a third goal through Jordi Alba in the 45+3rd minute.
In the 73rd minute, Bedoya narrowed the score for Philadelphia. However, the home team’s hopes of a comeback were extinguished by David Ochoa’s strike in the 84th minute. Ultimately, Inter Miami won 4-1 to secure their spot in the 2023 Leagues Cup final.
This is the first time Inter Miami has reached the final of a tournament. The team, owned by former football star David Beckham, has been established for only 5 years. They have never before been among the top contenders in a competition, nor have they advanced deep in cup competitions.