FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A scorching South Florida day, another jam-packed DRV PNK Stadium and more fireworks (literally and figuratively) from Lionel Messi.
Coming off his epic debut just a few days ago, it took the World Cup champion eight minutes into his first Inter Miami start to celebrate again.
His buddy Sergio Busquets, as he’s done so many times before, scanned the field and with the utmost precision delivered a ball over the top to Messi. You know how that story ends.
It was the first of many as Inter Miami cruised to a 4-0 rout over Atlanta United and secured a spot in the Leagues Cup Round of 32.
The visitors got off to a quick start with a Giorgos Giakoumakis goal being called offside and a Brooks Lennon cross smashing off the post. But once Messi put that ball in the back of the net, everything was coming up pink.
In the 22nd minute, Messi struck again as a play sparked by him of course resulted with the ball back at his feet in the box.
Right before the half, Robert Taylor tripled the lead with a nice strike to the delight of the sold-out crowd. If there’s someone that has benefitted from Messi’s arrival tremendously, Taylor is that guy.
The confidence and desire since Messi and Busquets have arrived is on a different level. Miami’s fourth goal was yet another display of how much has changed in these last two games.
A horrible Atlanta clearance gifted Messi the ball in open space all alone with one defender. At the time Messi picked up the ball, Taylor was at the edge of the box but broke out into a full sprint down the length of the field and got into position to receive the Messi assist and net his second of the night.
If you tuned in for the Messi show, you got the Taylor show as a bonus.
Busquets checked out of the game in the 72nd minute. Messi, in the 77th, handed off the captain’s armband to DeAndre Yedlin, gave his Argentina teammate (but rival on the night) Thiago Almada a big hug and headed to his comfortable seat on the sideline amid a standing ovation.
For those keeping count, that’s three goals and an assist in just 113 minutes of play for Messi.
And if you aren’t, you probably should because this is just getting started.