Lionel Messi has dominated some of soccer's most elite leagues, and he made his grand entrance to Major League Soccer in incredible fashion.
With Inter Miami leading the New York Red Bulls 1-0, Messi came on as a substitute in the 60th minute for his first MLS regular season appearance. He gave the crowd a show, as just before stoppage time, he scored. Messi delivered a beautiful pass and received a return for a tap-in goal to give his squad an insurance score to secure the win.
Messi has ignited Inter Miami CF in his short time with the team, appearing in non-league play and leading the club to the Leagues Cup title earlier this month. The trophy is Inter Miami's first championship since David Beckham established the team in 2020. The Argentinian superstar scored 10 goals in the tournament and won the best player award.
Inter Miami began the night at the bottom of the MLS standings and this is their first step toward climbing into a playoff spot.
It hasn't been announced if Messi will play in Inter Miami's next match, but the next opportunity for him to suit up will be a Leagues Cup title rematch. Inter Miami will host Nashville SC on Wednesday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Inter Miami defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. Lionel Messi scored the second Miami goal. Diego Gomez's scored Miami's first.
The win over the New York Red Bulls means Inter Miami is no longer in last place in the MLS standings. The win gave the club 21 points in the regular season, putting them in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto FC and the Colorado Rapids are tied for the fewest points in MLS with 19.
The top nine teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, and Inter Miami has some work to do to get in position for a playoff spot; they are 11 points behind ninth-place Chicago Fire FC.
With his goal Saturday, Messi has now scored in eight of his nine games with Inter Miami. He now has 11 goals and six assists with his new club.
The Messi magic continues.
After a missed set piece, Messi was able to get inside the box and delivered an insane pass to Benjamin Cremaschi, who gave it back to Messi with a wide open net, allowing the Argentinian to score his first official MLS goal in the 89th minute, capping off a perfect night for Inter Miami.
Saturday's match was available to watch in Times Square, as a crowd gathered to see Messi makes his MLS regular season debut. Once he scored, the crowd celebrated in the landmark.
Messi was right in his sweet spot to score outside the box in the 86th minute, but New York's Jorge Cabezas had no choice but to pull him down, drawing a yellow card.
Messi took a set piece but it hit the wall of defenders.
People were probably expecting Messi magic once he entered the match, but the chances for him to put one in the back of the net have been tough to come by.
Messi has gotten some touches, including in the box, but he and teammates haven't been able to get a rhythm to create a scoring chance. Messi has been heavily marked in the 20 minutes he's been on the field, but his team still holds a 1-0 lead. New York has been unable to convert any shots.
After 10 minutes of Messi being on the field, Martino made another change, bringing Benjamin Cremaschi in for Facundo Farías.
Fans paid hundreds to see Messi make his MLS regular season debut, and it took awhile, but it paid off.
Messi entered the match in the 60th minute for Leonardo Campana, marking his first MLS action with his squad up 1-0.
Sergio Busquets and DeAndre Yedlin also entered for David Ruíz and Robert Taylor.
No goals for New York to start the second half, but it's developed several chances as Inter Miami looks out of sorts on the defensive end. Andrés Reyes and Daniel Edelman each got a shot off, but Miami goalie Drake Callender was able to block each shot. Tom Barlow got a clear shot inside the box, but Callender used all of his body to block the shot and keep New York off the board.
The Red Bulls have spent a majority of the first 10 minutes of the half on the offensive end.
No Messi to start the second half, but the soccer star started to warm up as the half began, indicating he could come in as a substitute.
New York made some moves to its lineup to start the second half, with Peter Stroud coming in for Dru Yearwood and Tom Barlow on for Elias Manoel.
Diego Gómez's goal is the difference on the scoreboard at halftime as Inter Miami leads 1-0 as both teams head into the locker room.
Inter Miami had 55% of possession in the first half, with three shots. The New York Red Bulls have five shots, none of which were on goal.
It looked like New York would get its chance to tie it up after a handball was called on David Ruíz in the box. The play went to VAR review, which saw the ball hit his shoulder. The penalty shot was taken away, ending the chance to get on the board for the Red Bulls.
After the Red Bulls missed an easy shot, Inter Miami didn't miss their opportunity.
After a deflected free kick, Noah Allen delivered a perfect cross in the middle of the box for Diego Gómez, who had a clear shot on goal and hit the back of the bottom right net to take the lead in the 37th minute.
It was almost a second goal not too long after getting on the scoreboard, as Leonardo Campana went for an acrobatic left-footed shot in the box in the 41st minute, but was saved by goalie Carlos Coronel.
Each team drew a foul early on in the match, as the Red Bulls' Cameron Harper was handed a yellow for a foul that resulted in a Inter Miami set piece. In the 20th minute, Tomás Avilés was given a yellow card for a hard foul. New York was able to get a set piece just outside the box, but it went straight into the Miami wall.
More than 12 minutes into the match and Inter Miami has had the majority of the possession. No shot for either squad yet, but Jordi Alba nearly got one off inside the box.
The action is underway from Red Bull Arena!
The starting XI does not feature Messi, as the Argentinian will start Saturday's match on the bench. He could come in as a substitute later in the match.
Martino will go with a 5-4-1 formation for Saturday's match:
- Goalkeeper: Drake Callender
- Robert Taylor
- Tomás Avilés
- Kamal Miller
- Noah Allen
- Jordi Alba
- Diego Gómez
- Dixon Arroyo
- David Ruíz
- Facundo Farías
- Leonardo Campana
Manager Troy Lesesne will go with a 4-5-1 formation:
- Goalkeeper: Carlos Coronel
- John Tolkin
- Sean Nealis
- Andrés Reyes
- Cameron Harper
- Dru Yearwood
- Daniel Edelman
- Frankie Amaya
- Omir Fernandez
- Elias Manoel
Apple TV will have its lead announcing crew on the call, with Jake Zivin serving as play-by-play announcer with Taylor Twellman as lead analyst. Katie Witham will be the sideline reporter.
How to watch Messi, Inter Miami vs. New York Red Bulls tonight
The match between Inter Miami and the New York Red Bulls starts at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Is Messi playing vs. New York Red Bulls?
Inter Miami CF head coach Tata Martino has not given an answer as to if Lionel Messi will play in Saturday's game against the New York Red Bulls.
“Leo and many other players are reaching an important physical limit and from this point forward, we will have to evaluate how we approach these next three games,” he said, per the Miami Herald.
Messi, who was visibly fatigued during the U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday, did travel with the team to face New York. Martino said he would have a better idea on Messi's availability after Friday's training session.
Inter Miami has played four games — three road matches —in 12 days. Their upcoming schedule features two cross-country trips, from New York back to Miami and then to Los Angeles to face LAFC.
There's a ton of speculation as to whether Messi will play Saturday, but his club's social media account teased an appearance with a picture of his kit hanging in the locker room.
Despite the recent success Inter Miami has had with Messi, the club has yet to play a MLS regular season game with him on the roster. The team sits in last place in MLS with 18 points this season and a record of 5-14-3. They'll be taking on a New York Red Bulls team that sits in the 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 29 points with a record of 7-9-8.
Watch Messi in Times Square
New York City is fully embracing "Messimania."
With Messi coming to the tri-state area, the match between Inter Miami and New York Red Bulls will be broadcasted in Times Square, giving tourists and residents a chance to watch Messi play in his first MLS regular season game. The game will be broadcasted across a giant screen outside of the Marriott Marquis.
Soccer GOAT meets tennis GOAT
Two sports legends are in New York City this weekend, and they had a chance to catch up.
Messi and tennis star Novak Djokovic smiled for a photo together, as the tennis star is in New York for the US Open, which is set to begin Monday.
""Crack! Great pleasure to see you and talk to you. As always, I wish good luck and health to you and your family," Djokovic said on Instagram.