Lionel Messi has torn through Leagues Cup play with Inter Miami. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
The goals just keep coming from Lionel Messi, and maybe the scariest part is that Inter Miami didn’t need him to hit the back of the net on Friday.
Inter Miami defeated Charlotte 4-0 to advance to the semifinals of the Leagues Cup, continuing a wild surge since they signed one of the greatest players in the history of soccer. They will face the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
Messi continued a five-game scoring streak, waiting until the 88th minute to score Miami’s fourth and final goal:
Before that, Miami’s goals came from a penalty kick by Josef Martínez, a cross converted by Robert Taylor and a Charlotte own goal. Martínez gave Miami the lead in the 12th minute, then Taylor struck in the 32nd:
The own goal put Charlotte away in the 78th.
The win again showed how far Inter Miami has come since adding the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. They controlled possession 62.2% of the time and out-passed Charlotte 702-413. Even the Charlotte own goal was attributable to Miami’s offensive pressure. Goalkeeper Drake Callender didn’t record a save until midway through the second half.
Given that Inter Miami entered the Leagues Cup with an MLS-worst 5-3-14 record, it’s clear we’re watching a remarkable turnaround, with the least surprising source possible. Since adding Messi, Miami has scored 17 goals in five matches, with thrillers and blowouts in equal measure. Messi has scored eight of those goals and assisted on three of them.
As more and more eyeballs turn to MLS, and Apple TV’s numbers indicate they are, the pressure is only going to increase for Miami. The 36-year-old Messi has more than looked up to the task so far.