Lionel Messi steers Inter Miami past RSL in opener

League: MLS

Posted on: 22 Feb, 2024 at 07:21 AM

Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

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 on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Robert Taylor scored late in the first half and Diego Gomez scored late 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.

Luis Suarez had the primary assist on Gomez's insurance tally in his MLS debut after he became the third of Messi's former FC Barcelona teammates to join him on Miami's roster this offseason.

Messi had a wonderful late chance to add his first goal of 2024 in the 89th minute but was denied by goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who finished with six saves. However, MacMath should have done better against Taylor's opener.

Salt Lake finished with only two shots on target -- both from defender Brayan Vera -- but that was a matter of composure more than opportunity.

The visitors controlled possession in the second half against a Miami side that values it as much as any MLS team, but RSL often wasted the ball in promising positions.

Real Salt Lake showed just how much respect they had for Messi on an early free kick when they stationed defenders near both posts on the goal line. The move paid off, as Justen Glad headed Messi's attempt clear of danger.

Then in the 23rd minute, MacMath reacted well with a diving save to his right to deny Gomez's low effort from the edge of the penalty area.

The opening goal came in the 39th minute. Messi played the final pass, a through ball that Taylor ran onto in the right side of the penalty area and immediately struck with his right foot. MacMath dove to his right again but either misjudged or misplayed the relatively tame attempt, as it squeezed under the goalkeeper's armpit and trickled across the line.

The insurance goal came in the 83rd minute on one of the Herons' few forays forward. Messi slid the ball left to Suarez, who then played a quick cross for Gomez to neatly dispatch past MacMath.

--Field Level Media