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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Lionel Messi joins Inter Miami, dominates MLS soccer in early going

Lionel+Messi+is+widely+regarded+as+one+of+the+greatest+soccer+players+of+all+time%2C+making+his+move+to+the+MLS+a+surprise+to+many.+Messi+has+made+great+work+of+the+opportunity%2C+dominating+in+his+first+MLS+game+appearance.+Photo+courtesy+of+Flickr
Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, making his move to the MLS a surprise to many. Messi has made great work of the opportunity, dominating in his first MLS game appearance. Photo courtesy of Flickr

When Lionel Messi, the Argentinian superstar often regarded as one of the greatest soccer players, announced he was signing for the David Beckham-owned Inter Miami, the world of soccer — the world of sports, really — stood still. 

Fans in America who could never afford to see Messi play in Barcelona or Paris, his former two clubs, jumped at the opportunity to see him in a Miami shirt, raising ticket prices in some locations by hundreds of dollars. 

Never had a player of this caliber decided to join a Major League Soccer club — the LA Galaxy has had stars like David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimović in the twilight of their careers, while D.C. United employed England international Wayne Rooney’s services for a brief spell at the end of his career. But Messi stands head and shoulders above, both in terms of superstardom and talent. 

For all the anticipation, however, questions remained. Coming off a marathon two years playing for Paris Saint-Germain in which Messi struggled to endear himself to French fans who complained of a lack of passion and results in the Champions League (the premier European competition), was Messi the same player for club as he is for country? 

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Furthermore, after completing his greatest achievement yet — finally securing the World Cup that had eluded him his entire career — would he remain motivated and focused on playing for Miami, a team that sat at the bottom of the table in the MLS Eastern Conference? 

Those questions did not last long. In his first match for Miami, a Leagues Cup fixture with Mexican side Cruz Azul, Messi was consistently the best player on the pitch. In a moment worthy of Messi’s superstar status, he also converted a beautiful free kick in the 94th minute to secure a 2-1 victory, Miami’s first win in six matches. 

From there, the winning just didn’t stop. Messi and Miami followed up their performance against Cruz Azul with a 4-0 victory over Atlanta United, with Messi scoring two of Miami’s goals. A 3-1 win against Orlando City was followed up by a thrilling victory against FC Dallas, propelling Miami to the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup. 

4-0 and 4-1 victories over Charlotte FC and the Philadelphia Union, respectively, found Inter Miami, a bottom of the table side in MLS, in the finals of the Leagues Cup facing off against Nashville SC, currently sitting seven spots ahead of Miami in the table. 

90 minutes of regular time and 30 minutes of extra time could not separate the sides, with Messi contributing the lone regular time goal for the South Floridian side. The seemingly endless penalty shootout that resulted from the deadlock –reflective of Miami’s entire run throughout this competition – was like something out of a movie, with Miami triumphing 10-9 and securing the first trophy in the history of their club. 

In just his first 11 matches for the club, Messi has scored 11 goals, already becoming Miami’s third all-time leading scorer, and has recorded eight assists. In those 11 matches, Miami is unbeaten with 10 victories and one draw. 

Yet Miami still languishes in 14th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference of the MLS. To make the playoffs, Messi will have to pull off a Herculean feat, moving up five places in the table with only seven matches remaining. However, if Messi’s time in Miami has demonstrated anything, the impossible becomes commonplace around the Argentinian superstar.

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