Lionel Messi made a significant impact as a substitute, breaking an 11-game winless streak in the league for Inter Miami. His performance led the team to a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
In his debut in Major League Soccer, Lionel Messi scored a remarkable goal during the 89th minute, securing a 2-0 win for Inter Miami against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. This victory put an end to their 11-match winless streak in the league.
Almost 40 years after Pele’s arrival at the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, which aimed to boost soccer’s popularity in the United States, Lionel Messi entered the match in the 60th minute.
Jordi Alba skillfully redirected Sergio Busquet’s cross-field pass to Messi. The 36-year-old star expertly maneuvered past three defenders, calmly side-footing the ball to Benjamin Cremaschi. The 18-year-old American swiftly played the ball back to Messi, who sprinted towards the goal. The ball bounced off his left foot and into the net from close range.
With this goal, Messi has now scored 11 times in nine games for Miami across various competitions.
The match marked the Red Bulls’ first sold-out home game of the season, with resale tickets fetching prices of over $1,000 in the lead-up to the game.
By following in the footsteps of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Messi joined a more stable league that aspires to eventually rival the more established American sports in terms of popularity.
Chants of “We Want Messi!” began as early as the sixth minute, growing louder with a resounding “Mes-si! Mes-si!” chant by the 35th minute. Amidst this atmosphere, 20-year-old Paraguayan forward Diego Gomez, one of four Miami starters making their MLS debuts, found the back of the net in the 37th minute.
All eyes were on Messi as he started warming up three minutes into the second half. A roar erupted when Coach Martino signaled for him to shed his training bib and step onto the field.
Messi’s first appearance for Miami was on July 21 in the Leagues Cup, during which he scored an impressive 10 goals in seven games, including a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
Before this victory, Miami’s last league win was on May 13 against New England, and they had secured only one away victory on April 29 against Columbus.
The area around Red Bull Arena was bustling with activity 2.5 hours before the match, featuring numerous scalpers and vendors selling unofficial Messi jerseys. Additionally, the game was broadcast live on a video screen in Times Square. Roughly half of the attendees wore Messi jerseys from his native Argentina, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Miami.
Miami took the lead with a goal from Alba, who, like Messi and Busquets, was making his debut. Alba took a free kick after a foul by Andrés Reyes. The ball was deflected by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel. Robert Taylor passed the ball wide to Noah Allen, and the 19-year-old defender delivered a diagonal pass to Gomez. Gomez skillfully settled the ball and fired a left-footed shot into the far corner from around 14 yards out.