Sports

Messi secures win for Inter Miami against Salt Lake in MLS Season opener

Lionel Messi helped set up both goals and Inter Miami survived extended second-half pressure from Real Salt Lake to earn a 2-0 victory in Major League Soccer’s season opener Thursday morning in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Robert Taylor scored late in the first half, and Diego Gomez added another in the second for Miami, which was dominant before the break but inferior after it and probably fortunate to still be in the lead when Gomez added on.
According to the report by ESPN, Messi was in mid-season form, darting through and around defenders, almost giving the sellout crowd what they wanted to see with a goal from a free kick and then one from a corner kick midway through the first half.
“I think the eyes of the world are on Inter Miami, and I’m hoping that they’re able to deliver on that and whatever expectations people have,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was at the match. “Mostly, I’d just like his experience to be good, the experience of the team to be successful, how they’re positioned both here in the league but also around the world.
“That’s the story that I think is most important to us.”
Messi had 11 goals in 14 total matches with Inter Miami last season, leading the team to a Leagues Cup championship — its first-ever trophy — shortly after he stunned much of the soccer world by signing a 2 1/2-year contract worth around $150 million. He appeared in only six MLS matches in 2023, scoring once.
Injuries slowed him late in the 2023 season and Inter Miami, which was way out of the postseason picture when Messi joined last summer, didn’t make the MLS playoffs.
But the craze surrounding him is not fading. The lines for fans to buy his jersey, which was MLS’ top seller last year and has a new sponsor design this year, was out the door of the team store. He had the assist on the first goal and set up Luis Suarez — one of his former Barcelona teammates, like fellow Inter Miami stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba — with the pass that Suarez turned into the assist on Gómez’s goal.
“I’m so happy,” Suarez said after the match in which his new team looked every bit like a contender. That wasn’t the case in the exhibition season.

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