The positive impact of Lionel Messi at his MLS side, Inter Miami, reverberated again Thursday morning (late Wednesday) as the multiple Ballon D’Or winner helped the club to reach the final of the U. S. Open Cup.
The club co-owned by David Beckham were on the brink of an embarrassing defeat but rallied back to force an extra time after Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez strikes either side of a goal by Leonardo Campana.
Messi came to the fore deep into stoppage time, delivering an inch-perfect cross on to the head of Campana to record his second assist and force extra-time.
Josef Martinez then looked as if he had won it for the visitors, only for Yuya Kubo to bag an 114th-minute equaliser to send the enthralling encounter to penalties.
It was Miami’s second shootout in the space of four days after their Leagues Cup final triumph over Nashville last Saturday night, with goalkeeper Drake Callender once again proving to be the hero after Messi converted his spot-kick.
Benjamin Cremaschi fired home the winning penalty after Callender denied Cincinnati’s Nick Hagglund.
Miami boss Gerardo Martino who was also Messi’s former national team coach in Argentina, took the opportunity to praise him, saying: “He’s a leader on the pitch and with the group he’s shown it for a long time, not only here with Miami but also with Argentina.
“Luckily, players get behind his leadership and enthusiasm in his response for every moment, no matter the circumstances and today he showed it more as a conductor than a finisher and you saw that with the pass late in the match but he makes difficult plays look easy.”
On Messi’s decisive actions, Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan added: “He makes the delivery on the plays that matter and that’s where he’s a difference-maker.”
Reaching the U. S. Open Cup final is the second in the history of the club, after the League Cup final, all under the leadership of Messi.
Miami will return to Major League Soccer action at New York Red Bulls on Saturday night (early Sunday in Africa) and will host next month’s U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, September 27.
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Izuchukwu Okosi is a Nigerian sports and entertainment journalist with two decades of experience in the media industry having begun his media journey in 2002 as an intern at Mundial Sports International (MSI) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), owners of Daar Communications Plc.
In October 2004, Okosi joined Complete Communications Limited, publishers of Complete Sports newspaper and Complete Football magazine as a reporter and later script writer for the Complete Sports studio.
He worked there for 13 years until October 2017.
Okosi also worked various times as Correspondent, Content creator and Editor at Sports Market International Magazine, Opera News, All Nigeria Soccer Media and Iconic Media Watch.
He also undertook freelance writing gigs for some local and international organizations.
Okosi is a member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Association of Voiceover Artistes of Nigeria (AVOA), Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He has been part of cast in some Nollywood movies and radio dramas including Blood Money 2, Scores To Settle, Dead End 2, Another Campus Tale and Battle Line.
Aside mainstream media and the entertainment industry, he has interests in scouting/unearthing of talents in the sports and creative sectors, exports business and property development.