Lionel Messi continues to shine brightly for Inter Miami CF, as his remarkable journey with the team persists. On Wednesday evening, his influence propelled the team forward into yet another championship match. This time, the victory came through a penalty-kick shootout after an impressive comeback draw of 3-3 against FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup semifinals.
Just four days after securing the Leagues Cup title against Nashville SC, the Herons, as they are affectionately known, extended their unbeaten streak to eight games since Messi’s arrival in mid-July. The record stands at six wins, two draws, and no losses during this period. Their reward for this exceptional performance is the honor of hosting the USOC final on September 27th. This opportunity was earned after Houston Dynamo FC defeated Real Salt Lake in the other semifinal on Wednesday night.
In the gripping showdown at TQL Stadium, Inter Miami CF engaged in a back-and-forth battle against the MLS leaders. The match reached its climax in a penalty shootout, which Inter Miami won 5-4. The game-winning penalty kick was executed by homegrown talent Benjamin Cremaschi in the fifth round of the shootout. This triumph was made possible by a pivotal save from goalkeeper Drake Callender.
Lionel Messi’s impact was particularly evident in the second half, as he orchestrated two goals by Leonardo Campana through his exceptional left foot. Campana’s two headed goals, one from a free-kick service in the 68th minute and another from a looping cross in the 90+7th minute, forced the game into extra time. These goals showcased Messi’s artistry and influence on the field.
Inter Miami CF believed they had secured victory in the first half of extra time when Josef Martínez found the back of the net in the 93rd minute. This goal was the result of a quick-strike offensive maneuver facilitated by Cremaschi’s role in converting a turnover.
However, FC Cincinnati’s substitute Yuya Kubo had other plans, responding with a crucial goal in the 114th minute just as full-time approached. His curling shot breathed new life into the home side’s aspirations.
Before the late-game excitement, FC Cincinnati managed to secure the game’s first two goals. Captain Luciano Acosta struck first in the 18th minute, capitalizing on a sequence that resembled a pinball game through Miami’s defensive line. Brandon Vazquez, a striker for the US men’s national team, added a second goal in the 53rd minute with a powerful shot from 25 yards out, beating Callender.
Ultimately, it was Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF who earned their spot in the USOC final, ensuring that this captivating summer will include yet another chance to claim a trophy. Notably, their achievements have also secured a place in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup.