Lionel Messi scored a great goal and won his first prize in North American soccer when Inter Miami beat Nashville on penalties (10-9) after the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The Argentine World Cup winner put Miami ahead with a great shot into the top corner in the 24th minute, but Nashville’s Fafa Picault tied the game in the second half.
Leonardo Campana missed Miami’s last chance to win the game in regulation, so the game went to a shootout. At the end of the shootout, Drake Callender of Miami saved Elliot Panicco’s shot.
Messi and his teammates rushed to celebrate with the American goalie, who had made some key saves late in the game to keep his team in the game.
“The grit, just the trust in ourselves and what we can do. He said, “It’s something special, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
When Messi joined Miami a month ago, they were the worst team in Major League Soccer. Since then, they have gone undefeated and won the League Cup.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has now scored 10 goals in seven games for his new club, which wears pink. On Wednesday, when his team plays Cincinnati in the semi-final of the US Open Cup, he will have the chance to get his team to another final.
This wasn’t the powerful and exciting Miami that has lit up the tournament with MLS and Liga MX teams from Mexico over the past month, but the win was still sweet.
“It was a lot of fun. The draw was a fair result, and penalties are decided by luck, which worked in our favor this time, said Sergio Busquets, a Spanish playmaker.
Steps and jumps
“I’m very happy that we won the club’s first championship in just one month. We are very happy with how fast the team is growing,” he said.
“Our energy, work, personality, and knowledge have spread to the rest of the team. We’re putting together a strong team… Then there’s Leo, who is important because he’s the best in the world.
Nashville went into the game with the clear goal of limiting the influence of Busquets and, by extension, Messi. They were able to do this by making Miami play a slower, deeper possession style of football.
Walker Zimmerman’s header from a Lukas MacNaughton corner forced Callender to make a low save early on, letting Miami know that Gary Smith’s team could be trouble at set pieces.
Miami was looking around, and Messi was dropping back to look for holes in the home team’s defense.
But with Walker Zimmerman in charge of the back line, there weren’t many chances until Robert Taylor turned and shot a hard shot that Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco did well to stop.
After three minutes, Miami took the lead, and it wasn’t a big surprise how they did it.
Taylor tried to pass the ball inside, but it was blocked. The ball then went to Messi, who dribbled past Zimmerman and had enough room to his left to hit an impossible shot from more than 25 yards away that went into the top corner past Panicco, who couldn’t do anything.
The first half looked like Miami was in complete control and playing with confidence that bordered on swagger, but the second half was a different story.
From a corner, Picault won a header at the back post that went in after Benjamin Cremaschi and Callender’s feet hit the ball.
Nashville suddenly started to believe, and their German forward Hany Mukhtar came to life. He made Miami nervous with his fast runs, and Callender shot from the right side.
But in the last few seconds, Campana should have won the game for Miami when he went around Panicco and hit the post when the goal was right in front of him.
Then it was time for penalties. All 10 wide players took a shot, but one player on each team missed. It came down to the goalkeepers, and Callender kept his cool to stop Panicco’s shot and start the celebrations.