Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi goals power Inter Miami in rout of Orlando City: Takeaways

Luis Suarez scored his first two MLS goals for Inter Miami on Saturday with a quick first-half brace, and Lionel Messi added two more in the second half (one with his chest and one with his head) as Inter Miami raced to a 5-0 rout of in-state rivals Orlando City on Saturday.

The result ties Messi atop the MLS scoring charts alongside Christian Benteke with three, while Luis Suarez ended the game atop the league in assists (Inter Miami has played three games while most of the league has played one).

“It may have been the most complete game since I began coaching Inter Miami,” head coach Tata Martino told media afterward.

Here are three key takeaways from the match:

Messi, Suarez feed off each other

Inter Miami took an early 1-0 lead over Orlando City in just the fourth minute after a careless giveaway by Orlando City in their own defensive third. Messi found Inter Miami central midfielder Julian Gressel on the right flank, and Gressel’s sharp pass was finished first-time by Suarez.

 

Suarez scored his second goal in Inter Miami colors seven minutes later, and Gressel was again involved. Suarez latched onto the U.S. international’s flicked pass outside the Orlando penalty area. The ball was in the back of the net two touches later. Suarez beat Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese again, this time with a left-footed strike to the far post.

Both goals were vintage Suarez, and he added an assist before the end of the first half, feeding Robert Taylor across the face of goal to make it 3-0 Miami after just 29 minutes.

Suarez hadn’t scored since signing for Inter Miami in December, but soon enough it was time for Lionel Messi to take over. The Argentine scored his first in especially strange fashion, chesting the ball over the line (eventually) after a goal-line clearance off the crossbar that ping-ponged its way around the six-yard box.

Messi’s second of the night was slightly more straightforward, and far more pleasing to the eye. Luis Suarez once again played provider, sending a perfect service into the box on a breakaway that Messi met with a cushioned header to the back post to make it 5-0 Miami.

 

Barcelona DNA in Inter Miami colors

Inter Miami’s performance felt like a throwback to those great Barcelona teams of a decade ago. Messi, Suarez and Alba ran freely. It rained goals, many of them well-worked sequences that showed that good chemistry never ages. Messi scored twice and Suarez added his own brace, plus a pinpoint assist to Messi for Inter Miami’s fifth goal. Messi was Messi, and while Suarez may be playing on one knee, El Pistolero still hits his target even when he shoots from the hip.

“I’m really happy for him that he was able to score, but none of us were concerned about that. We know what Luis is all about and what he’s capable of doing,” Messi said on Apple TV+ in Spanish after the game. “When you least expect it, (Suarez) can finish a game for you with his goals and assists.”

Less reliance on Messi, despite his goals

Inter Miami head coach Tata Martino told reporters earlier in the week that his side had been far too reliant on Messi in the first two games of the season. The concern, Martino said, was more health-related than tactical. Messi will need more rest more often if he’s expected to carry Inter Miami through the end of a long season in which Miami will have high expectations in MLS, CONCACAF Champions Cup, and Leagues Cup.

“It’s a long journey and we’re just getting started and we’re all very aware that we have a team that can do it,” Messi said after the match. “It’s important to start the season well because league play is going to stop (in the summer). It’ll be a new competition. We want to arrive at that stage of the season with some leeway and earn as many points as possible before Copa America and Leagues Cup.”

Inter Miami has the world’s best player in their starting XI, but the club has to become a sum of their parts, and taking the pressure off of Messi is part of that.

This approach isn’t unique to Inter Miami; Messi won a Copa América, and then a World Cup title, after Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni realized that surrounding Messi with soldiers rather than stars was the secret to success.

Martino will have to do the same with a much thinner talent pool. On Saturday, it didn’t look like an impossible task. Julian Gressel finally looked comfortable in central midfield. He was positionally aware and creative on the ball. Inter Miami’s new center back Nicolas Freire was cool and calm in his MLS debut, while goalkeeper Drake Callender, often shaky inside his own penalty area, was crucial to maintaining a clean sheet.

A 5-0 win over a perceived Eastern conference contender may be a warning sign to the rest of the league. But in MLS, the league’s parity means that teams don’t have to be perfect. Inter Miami doesn’t have to become a juggernaut to find success in 2024. They do have to limit their Messi-dependence.

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(Photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)


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