Messi Does Dallas

Admit it. You knew he was great. You knew he was the greatest of all time! You did not know that this Inter Miami team would become this good this quickly! You did not know watching this team would be THIS entertaining and THIS fun. You did not know how motivated the great one, Lionel Andres Messi, would be in coming to play for this team in a lower league compared to his topflight European campaigns after the rough couple of years he had with the fans in Paris. Argentina beating France in the World Cup Final in December? That could not have helped his relationship with the PSG fans in the Parc des Princes. The way Leo, Antonella, and their children have been accepted and fawned over in South Florida has seemed even a bit of an overwhelming yet pleasant surprise for a man who is more famous than the pope. The Latin-based culture of Miami and the Argentine infused diaspora that always shows up to support Messi makes Inter Miami a far more simpatico and cultural fit for Messi.

The Mission

What is clear is that Messi is dead serious about resurrecting this team from the bowels of the MLS standings. He did not come to South Florida to retire, collect a check, get a tan, and work on his golf game. Messi came to Miami to put Inter Miami on the map and elevate the perception of the MLS around the world. I would say his endeavors in that regard have been a massive success so far. Ronaldo can try to take shots at the quality of the MLS from Saudi Arabia, but the bottom line is: Inter Miami has captured the hearts and minds of the world while most people still have no idea what the name of Ronaldo’s team is in Saudi Arabia and how they can watch his games.


Messi’s Effect

On Monday, the official Google Trends Twitter handle tweeted that “Dallas vs Inter Miami” was the #1 googled phrase in the entire world. Not in the U.S. Not in Florida. Numero uno en todo mundo. That is a mind-blowing statistic when you think about all of the other more important things that people could be googling on this 3rd rock from the Sun filled with over 7 billion people. When is the last time you saw an MLS game or Inter Miami being the lead off story on ESPN’s iconic Sportscenter? When was the last time you saw Diddy, and DJ Khaled, and Rick Ross, and Gloria, and Emilio, and LeBron, and Serena, and Marc Anthony, and Kim Khardashian, and Derek Jeter, and Tua, and Camila Cabello at an Inter Miami game? When was the last time you saw DRV PNK stadium sold out in every single game with these massively inflated ticket prices? David Beckham is married to a former Spice Girl who is uber famous in her own right. In David’s words, Victoria never cared about his football ownership career. She never asked to go to a game or a training session since they have been in South Florida. However, since Messi has arrived on the scene, Posh Spice has been at every team event, every training session, and even bugs Mr. Beckham about leaving for the game 4 hours before kick off! That is the Leo Messi effect. “Si muchachos,” Messi Mania is in full swing.


I would say this project, while only 4 games in, is a massive sweeping success and the organic following is only getting started. What a return on investment for AppleTV+, adding streaming subscribers galore. What an absolute windfall for Jorge Mas and David Beckham. Messi is having fun playing with passion again. He is playing with a smile again. He is enjoying being a leader to this team and coaching up the young players and the pure joy that he is experiencing out on the pitch has given me goosebumps while watching it.

Messi Makes You Better

What other teams are realizing is that it’s not just that Messi’s great, but he actively instinctively attends to the other players on the field and his mere presence improves the play of his teammates. Messi’s attendance on the pitch improves the progression of the young players like Benjamin Cremaschi and Robert Taylor. He has empowered them to believe that they are great players on a great team playing with a great player and that belief has geometrically angled Inter Miami into a 180 degree turn from where they were headed before Messi, Busquets, Alba, and Martino supplanted Phil Neville and the previous roster parts.


On Sunday night we were treated to an instant classic of a match. One that was greatly needed after the ousting to the USWNT in the FIFA Women’s World Cup at the feet of Sweden on penalties. The game was radically intense from the outset with Jesus Ferreira heading home what looked like the opening goal before being ruled out for being offside. Just minutes later, Messi hit a wonderful first-time strike from the left edge of the 18 yard box and his aim was true. The G.O.A.T. somehow squeezed the strike with cubic centimeters of venom into a window between the goalkeeper’s glove and the near post that could not have been more than a few centimeters wide. No one has the right to make an impossible shot like that look so routine, but that’s what makes Messi the greatest player that my eyes have ever witnessed.


Messi can do things like that with such consistency to the point where he is essentially a living breathing cheat code. FC Dallas fans in #10 Argentina shirts were more confused than a dog when hearing a high pitch frequency from an unknown source. They cheered for their FC Dallas team but they were also cheering every time Messi touched the ball, made a slick pass, and scored a goal against the team they support. It was an odd phenomenon to witness for sure. Inter Miami fell behind by 2 goals including scoring a heartbreaking own goal after Robert Taylor hustled back 100 yards to be a good teammate that didn’t defensively want to give up a breakaway score on the counter. The cruelty of the soccer gods to reward his amazing team effort with him putting one past his own goalkeeper Callendar just seemed too brutal to be fair. Little did we know that was just the twist that Hollywood writers would normally put in the script to increase the jeopardy for the protagonist in his epic adventure only to be overcome in a magical moment of brilliance. The Hollywood writers may be on strike, but Messi is putting in extra work in triple digit heat and he refused to accept defeat on Sunday.


Cremaschi roofed a wicked cutback pass from Alba into the back of the net to inject belief into the team. FC Dallas scored a header own goal because of their fear of Messi’s brilliance on a free kick to make up for Taylor’s unfortunate own goal 12 minutes prior. Then Messi took a free kick in the 85th minute and arrowed it into the top corner of the near post for a bullseye goal that would make an expert darts player jealous and couldn’t have been saved if Dallas had Shaq standing back there to stop it. That’s how masterful a shot it was. Ten minutes prior to that moment, Miami was down 2 goals and it seemed like maybe their Cinderella run in the Leagues Cup might just be over. Messi said: “no, let’s go…vamos, vamos, vamos!”


Messi wearing the captain’s armband along with the tactical adjustments of Tata Martino has turned this Inter Miami team into a real contender to win this Leagues Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. The confidence in this team is palpable. Other squads better take notice because I am sure that they don’t recognize this team anymore. Did we have any doubt when Sunday night’s game went to penalties that Miami would find a way to win it? Coming from being dead, down, and out being down 2 goals in the 80th minute? I had no doubts that after fighting back to tie and nearly winning the game in regulation that Miami was going to win the penalty kick shootout. Leo Messi is so good that even coin tosses are afraid of him. Messi won both coin tosses to decide who would shoot first and at what end of the stadium the shootout would take place. Messi made the right decision when he chose himself to shoot first and his cool calm delivery imbued his team with confidence for the rest of the shootout. The 18-year-old Cremaschi who started the comeback stepped up to the spot with the game on the line and buried his penalty in the bottom right bin for the win. It was a magical moment for Mess, Miami, and all of the Inter Miami fans indeed.


Inter Miami is only sitting on 18 points at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table in MLS play. However, even that deficit does not seem insurmountable with how this team has come together and is playing now. Eight or nine wins in their next eleven matches once MLS play resumes could see the pink shirts getting into the playoffs. If they get invited to the dance….all bets are off because the showdowns will be on! But first things first. A showdown with Charlotte in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals at DRV PNK Stadium on Friday night. Vamos Miami!


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