Messi’s heroics salvage draw against Galaxy

Henry Tran - The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Anthony Bautista writes the new-look Galaxy and Messi's Inter Miami lit up LA with an epic 1-1 draw.

CARSON, Calif. — The stands were filled to the brim, the extra sets of seats brought into Dignity Health Sports Park, even the lawn were all jam-packed with 27,642 fans and celebrities alike as Inter Miami CF, led by Lionel Messi and friends made their first visit to LA in 2024.

The Galaxy would settle for a 1-1 draw after allowing a stoppage time goal to none other than Messi himself.

Messimania has been the biggest draw in the MLS since he arrived to the US and there were plenty of fans in the stands hoping for some Messi magic, but it would take a while before arriving.

The opening goal of the match didn’t occur until the 75th minute, when Dejan Joveljic opened his 2024 scoring account to put the hosts ahead, 1-0. 

Following a missed shot from Riqui Puig, the ball landed in front of Mark Delgado’s feet, where he placed it perfectly to where Joveljic would be able capitalize on a tap-in opportunity.

The Galaxy and its backline led by their veteran center backs, executed their game plan well for 90 minutes. 

”They’re very solid defensively, Caceres and (Maya) Yoshida played a great game,” Inter Miami head coach Tara Martino said afterwards.

Yoshida added that he enjoys playing with this revamped backline, despite some language barriers.

“Okay, on the right side  we speak Japanese, in the middle we speak Italian and on the left they speak Spanish,” Yoshida said with a smile before talking about the end of the match. “Well, we couldn’t make green sheet today but a little bit unlucky to be fair after the red card,” he added.

Shortly after the Galaxy went down to 10 men due to Delgado picking up his second yellow card at the end of regulation, Miami smelt blood in the water and Messi was able to capitalize to even the score in stoppage time. 

The second yellow card has been brought into question by some once the replay was shown on the broadcast then posted to social media.

Regardless of whether the card was warranted or not, in the 92nd minute, Messi did what Messi does best.

Assisted by his former longtime Barcelona turned Inter Miami teammate Jordi Alba, it was just like the good old days and allowed the visitors to come away with a point in the standings.

The Galaxy remained in control for most of the match and were nearly able to get ahead early on after Joseph Paintsil was dragged down in the box and awarded a penalty in the first half.

Puig stepped up to take his first penalty kick of the season and his shot was saved by Drake Callendar, who had three key saves to keep the game scoreless after the first 45.

Inter Miami, playing its second match in four days and traveling across the country to do so with key players aged 35 and older, justifiably looked fatigued heading into the break.

The visitors were able to weather the storm and keep the Galaxy to just one goal in the second half, despite LA finishing with an expected goal rate of 3.28 compared to Miamis 0.57.

While the result isn’t what the team was hoping for, Edwin Cerrilo says this is a match he’ll never forget, especially after exchanging words with Messi.

“We had a moment there. Just like with any player, I’m not one to back down. I kind of blacked out in in the moment just because it was him,” Cerrillo said. “That was a special moment for me, maybe not for him, but I’ll always remember it.”

Cerrillo had an unforgettable moment with one of his idols, but the matchup with Messi wasn’t his main motive.

“With that being said, I’m just disappointed that we couldn’t close it off at the end,” he added.

Next, the Galaxy head north to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in the Cali Clásico Saturday at 7:30 p.m.