LOS ANGELES — The stars were perfectly aligned for Inter Miami as Messi and his teammates of Inter Miami rolled over LAFC 3-1 with two assists from the GOAT of the global game. In front of a sold-out crowd wearing black and gold, with large pockets of pink and blue, the lone goal for LAFC came from Ryan Hollingshead after the 90th minute. Throughout the City of Angels, Messi jerseys could be spotted everywhere, from the streets of downtown Los Angeles to the inner recesses of the hallways within the sanctuary of the defending MLS Cup champions.
“It was a game that got away from us,” LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy remarked when pressed for details afterwards. To the winners, went a high-premium three-point spoils with Miami seeking to make the MLS playoffs for the second time since their inaugural season after falling to the bottom of the league in the first two-thirds of the MLS season. The visitors effectively have turned their fortunes around securing their second win of the MLS season since and extending their unbeaten run across all competitions to 11 matches. LAFC, on the other hand, lose their second straight game, now in 3rd place in the Western Conference with 8 matches remaining in the regular season.
LAFC nearly led early when Denis Bouanga shot from close range in the 11th minute, but Drake Callender punched the ball away – it was one of five saves he made on the night. Three minutes later, Facundo Farias gave Inter Miami a 1-0 lead with a sliding shot from just inside the penalty area after a through ball by Tomas Aviles. It was the his first goal with Inter Miami in his third match. His fellow Argentinian teammate, Messi had his own chance in the 38th minute, but in a moment that John McCarthy will reflect on with pride, he was quick enough to deflect the World Cup winner’s shot.
Jordi Alba next scored in the 51st minute off a long through ball from Messi. Leonardo Campana finished a left-footed goal off a Messi pass. The two assists were Messi’s first in league action. In spite of outshooting the visitors from Florida, LAFC were unable to find clinical finishing touches on all but one of their 22 shots. Lastly, Ryan Hollingshead scored off a set piece in the 90th minute for LAFC. The defending MLS Cup champions have 5 days rest before they head to Providence Park to face 12th place Portland, while Miami host Sporting Kansas City without Messi and a large percentage of Inter Miami’s lineup.
Miami have proven to be a team to be taken seriously in three competitions since their summer signings altered their team DNA. Their response to a grueling short turnaround from match to match over the last two months is in stark contrast to how LAFC responded to their own busy schedule this year. In his post-match interview, Messi remarked on the importance of the result.
“It was a nice test for us to see where we were standing and what we were capable of. We played in a very difficult field against a very good rival, the last champion.” For the record-breaking crowd of 22,921 at BMO, the night of stars above, stars on the pitch and stars in the crowd of spectators, was well worth the steep price of admission – a chance to see the world’s greatest once again achieve another defining moment in his life story, the day he scored his first assists in MLS league play, and the day his team avenged the results of their debut match in 2020. A new day is dawning for Inter Miami. “Now, we’re going to look to hit the objective of being among the best eight to try and win the league,” Messi continued. “This is the way. We continue growing and obviously winning provides a lot of confidence.”