Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami CF controls the ball against Bret Halsey #42 of FC Cincinnati during extra time at TQL Stadium on August 23 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Andy Lyons/Getty Images CNN —
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami just keep finding ways to win.
Days after Messi and his club won the Leagues Cup – the international tournament between clubs in Major League Soccer and Liga MX – Inter Miami defeated FC Cincinnati in a penalty kick shootout to complete a comeback victory in the US Open Cup semifinal Wednesday.
FC Cincinnati got the scoring started early at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on a Luciano Acosta goal in the 18th minute. Coming out of the half, FC Cincinnati extended the lead after a Brandon Vazquez goal from just outside the box in the 53rd minute. The fans in the stadium gave MLS’s best club this season a rousing ovation as the players celebrated on the pitch.
But Inter Miami then started its comeback.
Lionel Messi of Inter Miami hoists the trophy with his teammates after defeating the Nashville SC to win the Leagues Cup 2023 final match at GEODIS Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Inter Miami forward Leonardo Campana found a Messi free-kick and headed it in to cut the deficit to one goal. And with only a minute of stoppage time left, the Argentine superstar Messi floated a cross into the box where Campana yet again played hero and headed it in to tie the game.
About four minutes into extra time, Inter Miami striker Josef Martinez struck gold and scored to give the club its first lead of the match – however, FC Cincinnati wouldn’t go away easily. Yuya Kubo scored the 3-3 equalizer in the 114th minute which would send the match to penalties.
Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami stands on the pitch during a stoppage in play in the second half against FC Cincinnati. Jeff Dean/USSF/Getty Images
After both teams converted their first four spot kicks, Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender saved Nick Hagglund’s shot, then midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi scored to leave it at 5-4 and send Inter Miami to its second final in club history.
Even though Messi didn’t score a goal for the first time in his short Inter Miami career, he tallied two assists in the win.
Jul 21, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) looks on against Cruz Azul in the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Inter Miami will face Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final on September 27.
Soccer fans weren’t the only ones who wanted to get a glimpse of “Messi Mania.” The NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase were at the match, cheering on FC Cincinnati.
Messi’s next match is scheduled for Saturday when he makes his MLS regular season debut as Inter Miami travels to Harrison, New Jersey, to take on the New York Red Bulls.
Inter Miami – at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference table before Messi’s arrival – is 14 points back from ninth place and playoff qualification with 12 matches remaining.