Lionel Messi helped lead Inter Miami to a 3-1 win over LAFC on Sunday in Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES — Sergio Busquets picked out his pass to Lionel Messi near midfield. Messi saw a streaking Jordi Alba and delivered it on a platter. Alba calmly put it in the back of the net.
On Sunday, there were flashbacks of their Barcelona days as the old friends combined for a textbook goal that surely made David Beckham and Inter Miami ownership smile. That combination was the second goal of Miami’s eventual 3-1 win over reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC at a sold out BMO Stadium.
The star-studded night in SoCal had a list of celebrity guests that mirrored an award show as Prince Harry, Leonardo DiCaprio and others were shown on the big screen throughout the match. As has been the case, they were here for Messi mania … and Messi delivered.
The opening 10 minutes of action seemed like it was going to be a different story as LAFC shot out the gates firing, up for the occasion and dictating action. Denis Bouanga, who is the Black and Gold’s leading scorer with 12 this season, broke loose and had a wide open Carlos Vela on his right side. He decided to shoot it instead of teeing up the easy assist that would’ve likely opened the scoring.
Vela was irate, waving his arms in displeasure and kicking the ball out of frustration. Moments later Bouanga was one-on-one with Miami keeper Drake Callender, who made a fantastic save and kept it scoreless.
That was foreshadowing for the night. Chance after chance came for LAFC but Callender was a brick wall, reminding everyone why he was just called up to the U.S. men’s national team September roster.
Despite the slow start, Miami was rewarded when Facundo Farias scored an odd sliding goal, beating John McCarthy to open the scoring.
LAFC was still on the front foot for most of the half but the multiple chances just never turned into anything. And missed opportunities, especially against players of Messi-Busquets-Alba caliber will always come back to haunt you. As head coach Steve Cherundolo tried to make some subs and give LAFC a fresh approach, Miami nullified that when the trio linked up to double the score six minutes into the second half.
The inevitable happened, once again. This has been life for Inter Miami since Messi stepped on the field with that pink jersey for the first time in July.
Those same shirts, along with some No. 10s from Argentina and Barcelona took up a large majority of the crowd in L.A.
Late in the second half a pitch invader wearing the Barca shirt tried his luck to get close to Messi but was met by security. Not too long after Messi headed toward the stands to take a corner kick and waved at fans met by a roaring applause.
LAFC could have one of the best fanbases in the league, but not even their boisterous support could stop this freight train. In the 83rd minute Messi picked up his second assist of the night, giving Leonardo Campana an easy goal after taking advantage of defender Aaron Long slipping. The celebration roar would’ve fooled anybody to think they were in South Florida. Messi chants broke out as some of the locals headed for the exit.
Ryan Hollingshead got his consolation for a solid game as he headed home a goal off a corner kick in the 90th minute.
L.A. is a city where people come to make their dreams come true. Inter Miami’s hope of making a miraculous playoff push remains alive after their trip to California.
And since Messi has arrived, they have yet to lose a game. Not even a Hollywood script could compete with this.