Lionel Messi’s iconic goal steered Inter Miami to victory against Nashville FC in a thrilling penalty shootout, clinching the Leagues Cup title for Miami amidst a roaring crowd of 30,109 at Geodis Park. This was the maiden trophy for both teams since their MLS debut in 2020.
Messi, Inter Miami’s captain, set the pace with a stunning goal in the 23rd minute. His left-footed curveball defied defenders, finding the net’s top-left corner. However, Nashville leveled the score in the second half when Fafa Picault’s header, assisted by a corner kick, ricocheted off Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi and Drake Callender before finding the goal.
The match escalated to penalties after ending 1-1 in regular time. As Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba nailed their penalties, it was Callender’s save from Nashville’s goalkeeper, Elliot Panicco, that clinched the 10-9 shootout win for Miami.
Reflecting on the tense penalties, Callender said,
“I tried to stay focused and calm. Embracing the electric atmosphere, I believed in my preparation and training. Tonight’s victory is a testament to our team’s determination.”
Despite their current position at the bottom of the MLS standings, Messi’s June arrival has rejuvenated Inter Miami. The club has since been undefeated, boasting a record seven consecutive wins in the competition, with Messi contributing 10 goals in those seven matches. This win adds to Messi’s illustrious career, marking his 44th trophy and making him the most celebrated male footballer, as noted by ESPN.
Inter Miami’s manager, Tata Martino, praised the team and acknowledged the significant impact of their new additions, Messi, Busquets, and Alba.
“Building a team around such players makes the task easier,” he remarked.
This triumph ensures Inter Miami’s spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Nashville, though runners-up, also secured a place in next year’s tournament.