Messi Inspires Inter Miami Comeback, Securing Another Final Berth


Lionel Messi’s Magic Spurs Inter Miami’s Thrilling Comeback to Seal US Open Cup Final Berth

In a riveting showdown on the soccer field, Lionel Messi showcased his influence as Inter Miami, despite trailing 2-0, orchestrated an impressive comeback to defeat Cincinnati in a gripping US Open Cup semi-final. The match culminated in a dramatic 3-3 draw after extra-time, leading to a nerve-wracking penalty shootout in Ohio.

Building on their recent Leagues Cup victory over Nashville via penalties, Inter Miami, now bolstered by Messi’s presence since last month, find themselves on the brink of claiming their second trophy.

The US Open Cup holds a special place in American soccer, being the oldest and most prestigious knockout competition that spans back over a century to its inception in 1914. Often likened to England’s FA Cup or Spain’s Copa del Rey, this tournament carries immense significance.

On September 27, Miami will have the opportunity to host the final against the Houston Dynamo, who secured their place by triumphing over Real Salt Lake in a hard-fought 3-1 victory after extra-time.

Only a month ago, Cincinnati, perched atop Major League Soccer’s standings, would have been considered the favorites against Miami, who occupied the bottom rungs. However, the narrative has drastically evolved, with the arrival of Messi transforming Miami into a dynamic force.

Enduring the scorching heat, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) at kickoff, Inter Miami’s unbeaten streak since acquiring Messi, alongside Spanish stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, seemed destined to be broken.

Facing a 2-0 deficit with merely 22 minutes left on the clock, Messi stepped into the spotlight, delivering two masterful assists to striker Leonardo Campana. These pivotal contributions not only equalized the scoreline but also propelled the game into extra time.

The captivating story of the match unfolded with Messi’s compatriot, Luciano Acosta, breaking the deadlock for Cincinnati in the 18th minute. American forward Brandon Vazquez amplified their lead with a superb strike from the edge of the box in the 53rd minute.

Responding to the mounting pressure, Messi’s left-footed free-kick found its mark as Campana headed the ball into the net, reinvigorating Miami’s chances in the 68th minute. An overturned goal for Cincinnati momentarily tilted the balance before Messi once again demonstrated his influence, this time delivering a pinpoint cross to Campana, who made no mistake in converting the opportunity in stoppage time.

In extra-time, Inter Miami surged ahead as Benjamin Cremaschi delivered an exquisite pass to Josef Martinez, who executed a precise finish. However, Cincinnati retaliated through Japanese winger Yuga Kubo’s well-placed shot into the far corner.

As the tense shootout ensued, both teams remained neck-and-neck at 4-4. The pivotal moment arrived when Inter Miami’s goalkeeper Drake Callender saved Nick Hagglund’s penalty for Cincinnati. This provided the platform for 18-year-old Miami native Benjamin Cremaschi, of Argentine descent, to step up and seal Miami’s place in the final with a match-winning spot-kick. The jubilation of this accomplishment was shared with none other than Messi himself, who congratulated Cremaschi for his pivotal role.

Reflecting on his triumphant moment, Cremaschi expressed, “I’m living a huge dream. Sometimes I sit down and really think about the position that I’m in, and it’s incredible. I never believed I was going to be in the spot I am in now.”

As the dust settles, Gerardo Martino, the head of Inter Miami, is faced with managing the fatigue that follows a demanding eight-game stretch. He acknowledged the challenges ahead, hinting at potential player rotations, including Messi, to navigate the path from the Eastern Conference’s last position to a playoff spot. “The fatigue is overcome with all the enthusiasm… I hope the team in the future could play better, but it’s very difficult to do that when you almost can’t rest,” he shared.

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