In a sensational Major League Soccer debut, Lionel Messi displayed his trademark magic by netting a late goal, propelling Inter Miami to a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. This win ended Miami’s 11-match league drought.
Diego Gómez put Miami on the scoreboard in the 37th minute, setting the pace for the evening. However, it was the entrance of Messi in the 60th minute, alongside his former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, that ignited the stadium.
Kamal Miller, Miami’s defender, shared his awe:
“Watching Messi on the field, sometimes you forget your own role. His presence is just that mesmerizing.”
Echoing the global sentiment, chants of “We Want Messi!” resonated from the stands as early as the sixth minute, intensifying the anticipation of his entry.
DeAndre Yedlin, Miami’s right back, expressed his understanding of the fans’ eagerness: “If I were in the stands, I’d want to witness the magic of the game’s greatest player too.”
The atmosphere was electric, reminiscent of the NASL days when legends like Pelé and George Best graced the American pitches. The vicinity of Red Bull Arena was bustling hours before kickoff, with Messi merchandise in high demand. The game, attracting a record crowd of 26,276, also had the distinction of being simulcast in New York’s Times Square.
Messi’s synergy with Busquets was evident. Miller noted,
“Their coordination is almost instinctual. They’ve played together so long they can predict each other’s moves.”
While Messi’s initial free-kick attempt in the 88th minute was thwarted, it was his connection with 18-year-old American, Benjamin Cremaschi, that led to the defining moment. Messi masterfully controlled the ball, dodged defenders, and set up Cremaschi, who promptly returned the favor, allowing Messi to score effortlessly.
Tata Martino, Miami’s coach, said,
“With Messi, the unexpected becomes the norm.”
Despite the league’s media policy, Messi chose to let his performance speak for itself, not addressing the press post-game.
Messi’s addition to Miami has already shown its impact, with him scoring 10 goals in just eight appearances in other competitions. This win is a crucial boost for Miami, which hadn’t tasted a league victory since mid-May. The NY Red Bulls, on the other hand, are left to regroup after this defeat.
The opening goal was orchestrated by Jordi Alba’s free-kick, which was initially defended but later found its way to Gómez. He didn’t miss, placing Miami ahead.
Yedlin summed up the night’s sentiment:
“Watching Messi play, you’re constantly oscillating between disbelief and the realization that he’s just that good.”