This Inter Miami team sat dead last in the MLS Eastern Conference table when Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba arrived. Those three players would obviously be fun, but surely they alone couldn’t turn this team into the best in the United States…right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Inter Miami, unbeaten in Messi’s first five games with the team, faced their toughest test yet, matched up against the Philadelphia Union in the semifinals of the 2023 Leagues Cup.
While the teams Inter Miami have faced to this point had some quality, the Union were easily the toughest opponent they yet faced, and yet were not phased. A sensational Messi stunner punctuated a 4-1 victory for Inter Miami, putting them in the Leagues Cup final and securing a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup in the process.
Josef Martinez scores just four minutes in, setting the tone for another utterly dominant performance by this suddenly energized Inter Miami team. Messi and Alba added two more to put them 3-0 up at halftime, and while Alejandro Bedoya’s 75th minute goal finally lifted the lid off for Philadelphia, it wasn’t nearly enough, cancelled out by David Ruiz nine minutes later to end the threat.
Inter Miami will now face either Monterrey or Nashville SC in the final, with the Union relegated to the third-place match against the loser of that other semifinal. The winner of that third-place game will also earn a CCC berth, meaning Philadelphia still have something to play for.
FULLTIME: Philadelphia Union 1-4 Inter Miami
That’s it! Another dominant performance from Lionel Messi and Inter Miami, as they secure a place in the Leagues Cup final and book a place in next year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup!
Messi’s nine goals are the most of any player in the Leagues Cup, and already he’s the third-leading goal scorer in Inter Miami history, just six games into his time with the club.
Philadelphia Union vs Inter Miami: Second Half
90+3 min: Frustration has boiled over for Jose Martinez, who commits a foul on the touchline and begins to jaw at multiple opposing players, including Lionel Messi who gives him a stare and walks away. Martinez has to be held back by teammates from his continued demonstrations.
87th min: Inter Miami close up shop with their final two subs, bringing on Christopher McVey and Noah Allen. Jim Curtin waves the white flag, withdrawing Daniel Gazdag for Joaquin Torres.
84th min: GOAL! INTER MIAMI! That’ll do it! David Ruiz puts the finishing touches on the tight-angle chance, created by a vertical ball from DeAndre Yedlin. Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake can only shake his head and wonder how they’ve allowed four goals on five total shots!
Philadelphia Union vs Inter Miami: First Half
45+3 min: GOAL! INTER MIAMI! It’s a dagger from Jordi Alba just before halftime! Robert Taylor feeds Alba with a vertical ball on the overlap, and the former Barcelona full-back scores from a tight angle. The former Barcelona full-back has his first Inter Miami goal!
The saying in hockey is “first minute, last minute,” and Philadelphia were punished in both phases. They conceded in the third minute, and now again in first-half stoppage time. This game was still theoretically manageable for Jim Curtin at 2-0, but at 3-0, it’s all but over.