After making a dramatic Inter Miami debut off the bench last week, Lionel Messi showed what he can do as a starter on Tuesday.
The Argentinian superstar netted two goals and set up two more as Inter Miami thrashed Atlanta United 4-0 in a Leagues Cup game at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Miami (2-0-0, 6 points) clinched first place in the South 3 Group and is headed to the round of 32 at the in-season tournament that features every team from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX.
Messi’s last-second, free-kick goal lifted Miami to a 2-1 win over Cruz Azul (0-1-0, 0 points) on Friday in the group opener. Atlanta United (0-1-0, 0 points) will play host to Cruz Azul on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the knockout rounds.
Messi needed just eight minutes to put Inter Miami ahead on Tuesday. He took a long pass from fellow Miami newcomer Sergio Busquets and dribbled in alone on a breakaway. Messi rolled a left-footed shot off the far post before calmly tapping in the rebound with his right foot.
In the 22nd minute, Messi took a pass from Robert Taylor 10 yards in front of the net and tapped in another right-footed goal.
Messi helped set up Taylor’s goal in the 44th minute, then got an assist in the 53rd minute as Taylor completed a two-on-one breakaway with his second tally of the night.
The only downside for Miami on the night was Christopher McVey receiving a red card in the 84th minute for a foul in the penalty area. Inter Miami goalie Drake Callender saved Thiago Almada’s subsequent penalty kick.
Dynamo 2, Santos Laguna 2 (Dynamo win 5-4 on penalty kicks)
After squandering a two-goal lead, host Houston scored on all five of its attempts in a penalty-kick shootout to edge Santos Laguna.
The visitors made their first four tries in the shootout before Raul Lopez sent his attempt over the crossbar to end the South 2 Group match.
Harold Preciado scored twice for Santos Laguna after Houston took a 2-0 first-half lead.
The Dynamo jumped in front behind goals from Corey Baird in the 14th minute and Griffin Dorsey in the 26th. Preciado halved the deficit just before halftime, then pulled Santos level by converting a penalty kick in the 63rd minute.
In the Leagues Cup format, teams that win a penalty shootout after a draw get two points, and teams that lose a shootout get one point. Houston now has three points through two matches, having lost on penalty kicks to Orlando City in its opener. Santos Laguna, who have one point after their opener on Tuesday, will conclude group play at Orlando on Saturday.
FC Dallas 3, Necaxa 0
An 11th-minute red card left the Mexican side with 10 men, and FC Dallas took advantage en route to a one-sided win in Frisco, Texas.
Sebastian Lletget scored in the 24th minute for Dallas, and Eugene Ansah and Jesus Ferreira added second-half goals.
FC Dallas, with four points through two matches in the South 4 Group, are assured of advancing to the Round of 16. Nexaca, who played their opener on Tuesday, will conclude group play on Saturday with a round match against Charlotte FC, who have two points following a shootout victory over Dallas.
Mazatlan FC 1, FC Juarez 1 (Mazatlan wins 4-2 on penalty kicks)
Ricardo Gutierrez saved two attempts in a penalty-kick shootout, leading Mazatlan to a victory over Juarez in Austin, Texas, and a spot in the Round of 16 from South 1.
Gutierrez stopped penalty kicks from Agustin Urzi and Francisco Nevarez.
Juarez led 1-0 at halftime after an own goal from Jefferson Intriago, but Mazatlan pulled level in the 49th minute. Josue Colman’s corner kick was headed by Nestor Vidrio into the path of Ake Loba, who slid in to knock the ball into the net.
Mazatlan have five points through two matches, Juarez have one point after their opener on Tuesday, and they will play a road match against Austin FC (0-1-0, 0 points) on Saturday.
–Field Level Media
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