Lionel Messi scored a spectacular goal in a thrilling match between Inter Miami and Colorado Rapids in his return. However, the late collapse of the Herons overshadowed his injury comeback.

In their first-ever matchup, Inter Miami and the Colorado Rapids played to a 2-2 tie at Chase Stadium.

The team’s captain, Lionel Messi, had a triumphant comeback and scored Inter Miami’s first goal. Leo Afonso, the first-round choice from the MLS SuperDraft, also scored to give Miami a 2-1 lead before Colorado tied it up near the end.

The encounter also saw the season-opening assists from David Ruiz and Franco Negri. The latter was returning to the squad after an injury that had sidelined him since June 2023.

How did Inter Miami fare in first half?

As compared to their starting eleven in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals last week, Inter Miami made seven changes for this clash.

At the outset, Drake Callender was in goal, with David Ruiz, Ryan Sailor, Noah Allen, and Franco Negri forming a four-man defense.

Julian Gressel, Tomas Aviles, and Lawson Sunderland were the starting midfielders, while Shanyder Borgelin and Afonso were the attackers who partnered with Leonardo Campana.

Also, after overcoming complications from a sports hernia operation in January, midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi made his 2024 team debut.

It had been a close contest up until the first half, when the Herons took a major knock. Just before halftime, Leonardo Campana exited the game because of an injury.

He is the latest offensive player to miss time due to injury, joining Robbie Robinson, Facundo Farias, and Robert Taylor at the medical table.

Despite little improvement, the situation deteriorated further as the Rapids grabbed the lead minutes before the break.

The Herons’ Ryan Sailor sent Rapids winger Kevin Cabral tumbling in the penalty area. Rafael Navarro then took the penalty that followed and put them ahead going into halftime.

Messi returns in second half with immediate impact

Nevertheless, spectators at Chase Field did get some good news after the break: Messi replaced Lawson Sunderland. Just as quickly, the Argentine made an impression.

After a long layoff, he returned to action in the 58th minute and scored a spectacular goal from beyond the box, sparking the Herons’ comeback. Two minutes after that, he set up Leo Afonso for a goal with a beautiful assist.

Nevertheless, a pattern emerged: Miami would eventually concede. Once again, Miami’s rival scored in the last minutes of regulation time; this time, it was Cole Bassett of Colorado who scored an equalizer in the 88th minute.

The two sides played to a tie and a point each, although Tata Martino’s club will probably see this as a defeat. For the third game in a row and four matches overall, Inter Miami has failed to secure a victory.

“I think we keep committing errors that cause us to leave points on the board…It’s typical of not having a reading of the match, of the moment, of being out of position and it surely costs us”, Tata Martino said after the game.

Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire