It was supposed to be the toughest test yet for Lionel Messi and Inter Miami.
And they aced it with flying colors.
Messi scored in the 20th minute, Josef Martinez and Jordi Alba scored in the first half and David Ruiz scored in the second half to lead Inter Miami to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in their Leagues Cup semifinal match on Tuesday night.
Inter Miami advances to Saturday’s Leagues Cup final against Monterrey or Nashville SC, and qualifies for a berth in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. Monterrey and Nashville kick off at 9:30 p.m. ET.
“We have to be happy and enjoy the moment,” Martinez said of Inter Miami reaching the Leagues Cup final during a postgame interview on Apple TV.
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Philly lost just one match in its last 41 contests on its home pitch at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. That was until Messi, the World Cup winner from Argentina and seven-time Ballon D’Or winner, and his new MLS team arrived.
Messi has scored nine goals in six Leagues Cup games, while Inter Miami has scored 21 goals during the tournament – a far cry from their 22 goals scored in 22 MLS games earlier this season.
Inter Miami has won all six games Messi has played, another stark difference from the five victories they had before Messi’s arrival.
With one more victory, Inter Miami will be hoisting a trophy. “It’s a big chance for us, for the team, for the ball club – the first final. We have to fight for that. We’re happy.”
When does Lionel Messi play next?
Messi will presumably take the pitch again on Saturday, when Inter Miami plays in the Leagues Cup final.
Inter Miami vs. Philadelphia Union score, highlights
Inter Miami defeated Philadelphia 4-1 on Tuesday night. Miami’s goals came from Josef Martinez (3′), Lionel Messi (20′), Jordi Alba (45′ + 3′) and David Ruiz (84′). Alejandro Bedoya (73′) scored for Philadelphia.
David Ruiz goal: Inter Miami 4, Philadelphia Union 1
This one may be over in Philadelphia.
David Ruiz scored in the 83rd minute after a pass from De’Andre Yedlin, and Inter Miami is in full control of this one.
Ruiz scored about 10 minutes after entering the game as a substitution.
And the game will enter its final minutes with Inter Miami likely to advance to the Leagues Cup final.
Alejandro Bedoya goal: Inter Miami 3, Philadelphia Union 1
The Philadelphia Union is on the board.
Alejandro Bedoya took advantage of a corner kick in the 73rd minute, two minutes after entering the game, and Philly has trimmed Inter Miami’s lead.
Bedoya capitalized during a hectic second half as Philly missed several opportunities on goal earlier in the half.
Philly misses two shots on goal in second half: Inter Miami leads 3-0
Chris Donovan missed two shots on goal for Philadelphia early in the second half.
The first was an open shot as Donovan’s left kick sailed over the net with Inter Miami’s goalkeeper out of position.
The second was a header by Donovan that was defended with a dive from Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender. Philly had some chances, but has not capitalized.
Jordi Alba goal: Inter Miami 3, Philadelphia Union 0
Inter Miami has made its presence felt in Philadelphia.
Jordi Alba, the former FC Barcelona standout who re-joined Messi in Miami, has scored his first goal with his new team just before halftime.
Alba was streaking down the left side after Robert Taylor stole the ball, and took advantage once Philly goalkeeper Andre Blake challenged too far away from the net.
Philly allowed just four goals in five games during the Leagues Cup, but it’s been a different story against Miami.
Lionel Messi goal: Inter Miami 2, Philadelphia Union 0
Messi’s left foot seems to be doing just fine.
Messi sent a wicked strike into the back of the net, to give Inter Miami a 2-0 lead at the 20-minute mark in his second road game in the MLS.
Messi took a pass near midfield from Josef Martinez, who hit the deck hard after a challenge. And Messi’s left boot did the rest.
Messi is now up to nine goals in six games. And the Messi Mania continues.
Josef Martinez goal: Inter Miami 1, Philadelphia Union 0
Talk about a quick start.
Josef Martinez scored three minutes into Tuesday’s game, handing Inter Miami an early lead in this game.
Martinez has come on strong since Messi’s arrival, and has scored in two straight games. He received a pass in stride from Serhiy Kryvtsov, and sent the ball into the left side of the net behind Philly goalkeeper Andre Blake.
And for the fourth game since Messi’s arrival, Inter Miami has scored inside the first 10 minutes (Messi scored the previous three times).
Messi in starting lineup for Inter Miami vs. Philadelphia Union
Any doubt about Messi’s ability to play in Tuesday night’s game due to Monday’s foot injury was put to rest when the starting lineups were announced before the game.
Messi will start his fifth straight game, and play in his sixth game overall for Inter Miami. Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
How to watch Inter Miami tonight vs. Philadelphia Union: Time, TV channel, streaming
The Inter Miami-Philadelphia Union game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. ET. The match can be streamed live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Messi injury update: What happened to his ankle?
Keep an eye on Messi’s left foot, which he injured during Monday’s Inter Miami training session, in this matchup.
Messi was participating in ball drills when his left foot appeared to roll as he stretched to stop a ball while his right foot was planted.
Messi took several steps with a limp, favoring his left foot, before rejoining his teammates during the practice drill.
Inter Miami coach Tata Martino was not concerned about the seriousness of Messi’s injury, saying if it was serious, his teammates would have been “freaking out” about it.
“Since everyone was fine, I imagine nothing happened,” said Martino, who coached Messi with FC Barcelona and Argentina.
Inter Miami vs. Philadelphia Union odds
All odds provided by BetMGM Sportsbook; access USA TODAY Sports Scores and Sports Betting Odds hub for a full list. Lines last updated at 6:20 p.m. ET.
Moneyline: Philadelphia Union +165 (bet $100 to win $165) | Inter Miami +130 (bet $100 to win $130) | Draw +260 (bet $100 to win $260)Over/Under: 3.5 (O: +115 | U: -165)
Who is Chris Donovan? Philadelphia Union forward scored game-winning goal vs. Querétaro
Keep an eye on Philadelphia Union forward Chris Donovan. He’s the reason the MLS team beat Liga MX side Querétaro on Friday to advance to the Leagues Cup semifinals. Take a look at his stoppage-time game-winner that gave the Union a 2-1 victory.
How has Messi performed since joining Inter Miami?
Messi has been on a tear, providing highlight plays with eight goals scored in five games.
Messi has three braces, or games in which he scored two goals, in five games.
Messi has also scored quickly during his first three starts – scoring in the eighth, seventh and sixth minutes, respectively.
Messi scored a game-winning free kick off the bench in his debut against Liga MX team Cruz Azul on July 21.
Messi helped Inter Miami storm back with a game-tying goal against FC Dallas, taking a 4-4 tie into penalty kicks, which his side won 5-3 on Aug. 6.
Leagues Cup semifinals matchups, times
Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, 7 p.m. ET
Nashville SC vs. CF Monterrey at GEODIS Park in Nashville, Tennessee, 9:30 p.m. ET (UniMás)
The final and third place game will be played on Saturday, times TBD.
What is Inter Miami’s remaining 2023 schedule?
TBD (originally scheduled for Aug. 20): vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m. ETAug. 23: at FC Cincinnati (U.S. Open Cup), 7 p.m. ETAug. 26: at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ETAug. 30: vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ETSept. 3: at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m. ETSept. 9: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. ETSept. 16: at Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ETSept. 20: vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ETSept. 24: at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ETSept. 30: vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ETOct. 4: at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m. ETOct. 7: vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ETOct. 21: at Charlotte FC, 6 p.m. ET
How tall is Lionel Messi?
Lionel Messi is a massive global icon and among the world’s greatest athletes of all time. But he’s also usually among the smallest players on the field. Messi stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall, according to his bio on Inter Miami’s website. That certainly doesn’t stop him from outplaying the rest.