Lionel Messi played a stunning turnaround for Inter Miami as they won over FC Cincinnati in a thrilling US Open Cup semifinal, prevailing 5-4 in a penalty shootout to secure a place in their first-ever tournament final. The game unfolded with a gripping narrative marked by Cincinnati initially taking the lead with a goal from Brandon Vazquez in the 40th minute which was followed by Luciano Acosta extending their advantage in the 55th minute.
Inter Miami responded with resilience as Gonzalo Higuain found the back of the net in the 68th minute, rekindling their hopes. Messi then exhibited his creative skills by assisting Indiana Vassilev who netted an equalizer in the 82nd minute, propelling the match into extra time due to the 2-2 draw in regular play.
Both teams remained deadlocked despite the extra time, setting the stage for the dramatic penalty shootout. Inter Miami emerged as the victors, scoring all five of their penalties while Cincinnati faltered on two, securing a historic foundation for the final.
Central to this compelling saga was Messi's remarkable performance. The Argentine superstar not only scored a transforming penalty but also contributed two crucial assists, asserting his influence throughout the match. Messi showed his leadership qualities, shocking his team when they faced a two-goal deficit.
Beyond his on-field contributions, Messi's exceptional show revived memories of his unparalleled footballing mastery, reaffirming his status as one of the sport's all-time greats. Inter Miami's season has had ups and downs, currently ranking 10th in the MLS Eastern Conference. But their spirited performance against Cincinnati showed their potential, especially against tough teams.
The US Open Cup is a historic soccer competition in the US, giving both pro and amateur teams a shot at glory. Making it to the final is a big deal for Inter Miami. The final on September 10 in Portland, Oregon is a huge chance for Inter Miami to win their first championship. They're the underdogs, but their win against Cincinnati gives them confidence. Winning the Cup would make history and leave a mark in American soccer.