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Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez provide assists as Inter Miami win season opener

Inter Miami put their disappointing preseason tour of Asia behind them with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake in their MLS regular-season opener Wednesday. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez each provided an assist on the night. Suárez hobbled and battled for 90 minutes in his MLS debut.

All eyes will be on Inter Miami this season with MLS Cup or bust expectations the only measure of success for the Fort Lauderdale-based club. With Messi now fully fit after an adductor injury limited his preseason action, Inter Miami was the aggressor in the first half. They dominated possession as a timid Real Salt Lake side sat deeper and deeper inside their own half. After several chances fell short, including a wicked free kick from Messi that was cleared off the line, Inter Miami finally found the back of the net in the 39th minute.

Messi drove at the RSL back line and found Robert Taylor’s diagonal run. The Finland international’s shot beat RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who should’ve done better. The soft-spoken Taylor had a breakout year in MLS last season. He scored eight goals for Inter Miami last season, highlighted by his four goals in five Leagues Cup matches over the summer. The second half was much more even. Inter Miami conceded possession and looked fatigued, which allowed RSL to create more chances and threaten the home team’s leaky defense.

Brayan Vera’s header nearly beat Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in the 72nd minute, but the American international’s fingertip save kept the visitors off the scoresheet. Inter Miami had nearly nothing left in the tank with more than 10 minutes to play. Messi wasn’t the only Inter Miami player walking in midfield. With an incredibly thin bench due to several injuries, Miami was forced to hold on for dear life as RSL’s pressure continued in search of the equalizer.

Just when Inter Miami was struggling for air, Messi broke free on a counter attack and found former Barcelona teammate Suárez. The Uruguayan’s first-time pass near RSL’s penalty area released 20-year-old Paraguayan Diego Gomez, whose finish sealed the victory for Miami.

Inter Miami will next travel to Los Angeles for a Sunday night matchup against the Galaxy.

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(Photo: Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images)

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