For Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami CF, the matches keep coming thick and fast. Just days after clinching the Leagues Cup 2023 title with a dramatic win in the final over Nashville SC, the Florida side are back in action as they take the field for their U.S. Open Cup semi-final clash against FC Cincinnati.
The Ohio outfit were knocked out of this summer’s Leagues Cup by eventual finalists Nashville SC on penalties in the round of 32. Although they lead the MLS Eastern Conference so far this season, FC Cincinnati had a tough return to league action last Sunday, as they fell to a 3-0 defeat on the road against the Columbus Crew.
Wednesday’s cup clash won’t be any easier for Pat Noonan’s men, as they take on the Leagues Cup champions - not least given Messi has been confirmed as a starter for the game. After hitting the ground running on his arrival in North America - ten goals in seven games so far - the Argentine maestro has no intention of resting on his laurels.
Inter Miami CF head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino has confirmed in the build-up to the game that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would be in the lineup, as the team look to qualify for a second final in quick succession.
The Argentine coach - who has already managed Messi in the national team and at Barcelona - explained that the captain was intent on being involved as much as possible:
“He’s played in every game, and maybe at some point he’ll want to rest, but that won’t be Wednesday. He’s going to play and he’s going to start. Until he says something, he will play. He wants to be at every game alongside the team.”
The team reached the final four of the competition by seeing off USL Championship side Birmingham Legion in the quarter-finals, having beaten none other than their future Leagues Cup final opponents Nashville SC in the previous round.
With Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba having joined in the meantime, the bottom-placed Eastern Conference team have undergone a spectacular revival. Can Inter Miami CF continue their impressive run of form on Wednesday night and aim for more silverware?