Lionel Messi once again propelled Inter Miami to its second final in less than a week, where it will face Houston in the US Open Cup. Inter Miami collected the Leagues Cup trophy on Sunday after beating Nashville in an epic penalty shootout. Much like the match at the weekend, Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup seminal against Cincinnati needed penalties.
Hosts dominated game until Messi, Campana took over
Cincinnati went ahead in front of its home crowd in the 18th minute of the match. After a bit of fortune inside Miami’s box, Luciano Acosta latched on to a loose ball and squeezed his shot between Drake Callender and the post. The hosts certainly deserved the lead, though, after putting pressure on Miami for much of the first half.
After Cincinnati went into halftime with a slim lead, the hosts doubled their advantage with another goal just eight minutes into the second period. USMNT striker Brandon Vazquez hit a wonderful striker from outside of the box into the bottom corner. It was the American’s sixth goal in his last five matches in all competitions for the club.
With the game seemingly under control by the home team, Miami fought back with help from Messi. Although the Argentine superstar did not score on the night, he managed to provide assists for both of his team’s goals. Messi found forward Leonardo Campana in front of goal from a set piece in the 68th minute. The striker easily converted the header from close range to cut Cincinnati’s lead in half.
As the match was set to enter the final minute of added time, Miami finally found another goal to level the scoreline. Messi gained possession of the ball and then sent in a perfect cross towards Campana once again. Much like the previous goal, the Ecuadorian headed the ball into the net from only a few yards away.
Both sides then also swapped goals in extra time to take the game to yet another penalty shootout. Miami converted all five of their spot kicks, while Callender managed to save a shot to help take the team to the U.S. Open Cup final.
Miami to face Houston in the US Open Cup final next month
Messi and company will face Houston Dynamo after they took care of Real Salt Lake at home. Much like the aforementioned Cincinnati-Miami matchup, this game also went to extra time as well. However, the hosts would score two late goals to avoid penalties. Hector Herrera, Adalberto Carrasquilla, and Luís Caicedo all scored for Houston on the night.
Houston’s win earned the MLS side a 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup spot. As Miami already picked up its place in the competition because of the Leagues Cup triumph, Dynamo automatically booked its place in the tournament. The two teams will return to MLS play for the next month until the U.S. Open Cup final on Sep. 27 in Miami.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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