Inter Miami triumphed 4-1 over fellow Major League Soccer side Philadelphia Union to reach the 2023 Leagues Cup final, with strong performances from Lionel Messi and Josef Martinez sealing the victory for the Herons.
Both Eastern Conference sides had one eye on the final, with Philadelphia looking to put on a defensive clinic at home while Miami aimed to let Messi work his magic to propel them to victory.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to stake their claim in the game. Martinez’s strike went across the face of the goal from a tight angle, and the formidable Andre Blake couldn’t get a glove to it. Although the goal itself was well-taken, the lobbed through ball from center-back Serhiy Kryvstov was a thing of beauty.
The Union were starting to get back into the game with a few shots near goal, but then Messi did what Messi does. Martinez held the ball up just Messi was making a run into Philly’s final third and released the pass into the Argentine’s pass. Messi dribbled past a few Union defenders before firing in a shot from several yards outside the penalty area, as it left Blake scrambling to get to the bottom corner but there was too much pace on the strike. 2-0, Herons.
Jordi Alba, who loves to venture forward, found himself with acres of running room as Robert Taylor played him through on goal with a perfect through ball after skipping past a few Union midfielders. The left-back scored with a similar strike to Martinez’ – but from the opposite site of the penalty – with a finish most strikers would be proud of.
Inter Miami didn’t have to get out of first gear but raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first half. On the other hand, Philadelphia really struggled to get anything going. Miami were in control of the game not only with the huge lead but with 58% possession, and the Union had no answers for Messi and Co.
The Union nearly pulled one back when Drake Callender hesitated to come off his line when a through ball from Kai Wagner made its way to Miami’s penalty area. Callender then made up his mind to charge at Mikael Uhre, who stopped his run as he was offside, but Chris Donovan wasn’t and went around Callender before missing a partially open net and skying his effort over the bar.
Jim Curtin’s side pulled one back when Alejandro Bedoya, who had just entered the game, found the back of the net from close-range off a corner kick to give the fans in Subaru Park something to cheer about. The goal was coming, as Philadelphia were growing more into the game (even if it was too little too late).
Another subsitute came on and had an impact in the game, except this time it was for the Herons. David Ruiz, who usually takes up space in the middle of the park, found himself further up the pitch on goal as DeAndre Yedlin played him through and the 19-year-old restored Miami’s three goal cushion with a composed finish.
Inter Miami dominated the Union and deserved to advance to the Leagues Cup final with a 4-1 thumping against their Eastern Conference foes. Miami and Messi will take on fellow MLS side Nashville SC or Liga MX giants Monterrey in the deciding game on August 19.
GK: Drake Callender – 6.5/10 – Didn’t have much to do in the first 45. Made a decent save and was commanding on a corner kick to punch an incoming cross to safety. Pulled off a magnificent stretching save to deny Donavan from scoring from a headed effort.
RB: DeAndre Yedlin – 7/10 – A solid night for the reliable full-back. Did well to tally an assist late on and showed his quality throughout the game.
CB: Serhiy Kryvstov – 7/10 – Made several interceptions and helped Miami start the night in style with a terrific lobbed through ball for Martinez’ goal.
CB: Kamal Miller – 6.5/10 – A quiet game for the Canada international, and he had a few nice moments on the ball.
LB: Jordi Alba – 7.5/10 – After racking up a couple of assists in previous games, the left-back finally scored his first goal for his new club. It was a well-taken strike that extended the Herons’ lead to three.
CM: Dixon Arroyo – 6.5/10 – Another solid shift put in from Arroyo, as he patrolled the midfield alongside Busquets, looking to clean up any loose balls and wasn’t shy in getting stuck in.
CM: Sergio Busquets – 7/10 – The midfield general reads the game so much faster than everyone else on the field, making passes before others see them and stepping in to make key interventions.
CM: Benjamin Cremaschi – 6/10 – Didn’t have the impact he usually has in the attacking midfield spaces but did show some great skill with a couple of nice runs through Philly’s midfield.
RW: Lionel Messi – 7.5/10 – The seven-time Ball d’Or winner scored another trademark goal from distance and put on another clinic in the Inter Miami shirt.
ST: Josef Martinez – 8.5/10 – Impressed in the first half with one goal and one assist and held the ball up quite well.
LW: Robert Taylor – 7/10 – Worked hard to set up Jordi Alba’s goal with some brilliant maneuvering in the middle of the park before releasing a crisp through ball to put the Spaniard in on goal.
ST: Leonardo Campana (61′ for Josef Martinez) – 6.5/10 – Although the move was offisde, he made a great run and seriously tested Blake with a thundering strike.
LW: Diego Gomez (61′ for Robert Taylor) – 6.5/10 – Provided a spark for the Herons up front (not that they really needed one, though) and impressed in his half-hour cameo.
RW: David Ruiz (74′ for Benjamin Cremaschi) – 7/10 – Took his chance brilliantly with a calm finish across the face of goal.
LB: Noah Allen (87′ for Jordi Alba) – N/A.
CB: Christopher McVey (87′ for Dixon Arroyo) – N/A.
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino – 7/10 – Picked Miami’s strongest possible lineup and it worked to perfection. When Miami integrates their summer signings Facundo Farias, Tomas Aviles, and Diego Gomez (who’s featured some already), they could become a much more formidable team in the future.
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