Sunday evening, all the stars of Los Angeles seemed to be gathered in the same exact place, BMO Stadium. Everyone from Oscar award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio to Prince Harry were in attendance for the hottest ticket in town.
In a crowd filled with Hollywood A-listers, the biggest star of them all just happened to be on the pitch. LA’s elite, all gathered to watch the little magician that is Lionel Messi, and to see if they could witness some of his Messi magic.
In his first trip to LA since joining the league, Messi and Miami would face off against reigning MLS champions LAFC. Captained by Mexican forward Carlos Vela, LAFC are currently sitting pretty in third place of the Western Conference, while Miami are still fighting for a spot in the East.
Although comfortable at the moment, LAFC came into the match off a 2-1 away defeat to Charlotte FC. Miami struggled as well, as they faced their first scoreless game in the Messi era against Nashville SC. After facing disappointing results, both sides came into Sunday’s match with their own motive for winning. Miami’s to show that they can compete with the best that the league has to offer and LAFC’s to prove that they are still the best team in the MLS.
LAFC had an opportunity early in the game, when in the 11th minute, forward Denis Bouanga took a shot within the box, only for Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender to make a beautiful save. This would be Callender’s first of five saves on the night. Miami answered back to this close call just minutes later when Argentinian midfielder Facundo Farías made a sliding shot into goal, giving his team the first score of the night. This marked the first goal for Farías since joining the club in July of the present year.
LAFC had a chance to tie the game in the 17th minute, when Bouanga once again had a golden opportunity in front of goal, only to shoot the ball wide of the net. LAFC outnumbered Miami when it came to shots, having 13 more shots and a total of six on target. As hard as LAFC fought, luck clearly was not on their side, as the ball did everything in its power not go in.
However, some of this bad luck did rub off on Miami. In the 38th minute, Messi received a clean pass in the box from Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gómez. Dancing around the box, he looked as if he was about to brew another batch of his Messi magic. Messi pulled back his magnificent left foot and took the shot, to which LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy deflected it with his hand. This save was massive as it kept Miami from going up two before the half. Sadly for the fans though, this shot was Messi’s best scoring opportunity for the entire match.
Although he missed his chance to score, Messi provided assists for Miami’s next two goals. The first in the 51st minute, when the Barcelona trio of midfielder Sergio Busquets, defender Jordi Alba, and Messi found each other in sync, resulting in an Alba goal. Messi then gave a generous pass to his new favorite partner Ecuadorian forward Leonardo Campana in the 83rd minute, putting Miami up 3-0.
Defender Ryan Hollingshead finally put LAFC on the board in the 90th minute, when he scored a header off a Vela corner, but by then the damage was done and there was no path to victory for the reigning MLS champs.
As quickly as they had arrived in LA, Messi and Miami made it known that they are the best team in the league and a force to be dealt with. They completely outplayed and outclassed an LAFC side that currently looks like a shadow of its title winning self. Miami reached a club-record unbeaten 11 matches, all starting with the arrival of Messi to the club.
Inter Miami will continue their quest to reach the playoffs on Saturday as they will play Sporting KC at home at 4:30 P.M.