Lionel Messi, Inter Miami aim to topple Orlando City

March 2, 2024 6:08 am

Lionel Messi [Source: Reuters]

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will attempt to continue their strong start to the 2024 MLS season when they host Orlando City.

Miami (1-0-1, 4 points) opened with a 2-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake on Feb. 21. The club followed that up with a dramatic 1-1 draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy last Sunday in which Messi scored an equalizer in second-half stoppage time.

But it very easily could’ve been a less successful start. Real Salt Lake dominated much of the second half of the opener before Miami’s Diego Gomez scored an insurance goal in the 83rd minute.

Article continues after advertisement

The Galaxy were even more dominant in terms of the flow of play. They also let the Herons off the hook numerous times, including when Drake Callender saved Riqui Puig’s early penalty.

Almost inevitably, Messi combined with former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba to create a late tally.

It won’t be the last time the Herons earn a result through the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner’s brilliance alone.

But Orlando (0-0-1, 1 point) has the advantage of previously having played Miami with Messi in last year’s League Cup.

And although the Lions played in the Concacaf Champions Cup in midweek, a heavy lead on aggregate allowed manager Oscar Pareja to rest key contributors. He brought last season’s leading scorer Facundo Torres off the bench and entirely stayed away from striker Duncan McGuire.

Preseason signing Luis Muriel also made his debut and contributed an assist in the 3-1, second-leg victory.