Days after claiming the first title in their club’s history, Inter Miami find themselves once again in another final. After going down early in the match, the team pushed the game to extra time due to the incredible partnership of Argentinian captain Lionel Messi and Ecuadorian forward Leonardo Campana.
Coming off an amazing final in the Leagues Cup, Miami came into the semi-finals of the U.S. Open Cup with full confidence. Unfortunately for Miami, things took a turn for the worse early into the match. FC Cincinnati opened the scoring when midfielder Luciano Acosta snuck in a goal in the 18th minute. After taking the lead, the Cincinnati offense did not back down and continued to step on the gas. In the 53rd minute, striker Brandon Vázquez slotted a shot into the corner of the Miami goal, doubling Cincinnati’s lead.
After being undefeated in their last seven games, it looked as if Miami’s luck had finally run out.
They were a shadow of themselves on the pitch, having only one shot on target for the entire game. Then, in the 68th minute, off an amazing freekick from Messi, Campana was able to head the ball into the back of the net and rejuvenated the team. Filled with hope, Miami started to fight back, regaining their former semblance. As the game progressed, it became clear that Miami’s biggest threat at the moment was not Cincinnati but time itself.
As the match found itself in garbage time, it appeared as if the honeymoon stage for Miami had finally ended. Luckily for Miami, they have the greatest player in the world in Messi, who knows how to produce in crucial moments. Chipping the ball over the entire Cincinnati defense, Messi was able to find the head of Campana once again, who scored his second header of the game.
With the score now tied, the match headed into extra time, where Miami continued on with their scoring streak. Venezuelan striker Josef Martínez seemed to put the final nail in the coffin when he scored a goal in the 93rd minute off a Cincinnati mistake. Cincinnati would answer right back, though, in the 114th minute when Yuya Kubo tied up the score 3-3 that sent the match into a penalty shootout.
Four days after playing in a crucial penalty shootout, Miami found themselves in the same dramatic situation. Messi would kick off the rotation for Miami and score from the spot, fully calm and collected. After a few rounds, Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender would be the hero in goal for the second time in less than a week when he saved a shot from defender Nick Hagglund. With the game on the line, a young Argentine repping the same number his captain once wore at the start of his career stepped up to the penalty spot. Club-grown 18-year-old Benjamin Cremaschi had the opportunity to send his team to their second final of the season. Cremaschi blasted the ball into the corner of the net, which solidified Miami’s victory.
The entire team was filled with emotion as they celebrated their comeback win, and nobody was happier than Messi. It was definitely an unforgettable moment for the Miami fans and players, but more so for club owner David Beckham. He was able to do the impossible and convince the world’s greatest player to come play for a club that currently sits dead last in the MLS Eastern Conference.
Since the arrival of Messi to the club, the team has won their first-ever title, gone undefeated, become the fourth most followed American sports team on Instagram, and has attracted other big-name players to sign for the club, such as left-back Jordi Alba and midfielder Sergio Busquets. It is safe to say that Beckham made a culture-changing signing for his team.
Miami will face Houston Dynamo at home on September 27th for the U.S. Open Cup final. Based on how Miami has been playing, it is more than likely that they will be adding some silverware to their trophy cabinet pretty soon.