Inter Miami CF clinched a Leagues Cup quarterfinals berth with a penalty shootout win over FC Dallas on Sunday night, in a match featuring a staggering eight goals in regulation. The thriller was highlighted by Lionel Messi’s third consecutive brace, including a stunning 85th minute free kick equalizer, and a goal from second-half substitute Benjamin Cremaschi with one of his first touches.
Drake Callender started in goal; DeAndre Yedlin, Sergii Kryvtsov, Kamal Miller and Jordi Alba lined up in defense; Sergio Busquets, Dixon Arroyo, and Diego Gómez formed the midfield three; Messi and Robert Taylor started on the wings alongside striker Josef Martínez.
Inter Miami’s two latest debutants, Alba and Gómez, slotted into the starting XI for the first time on the night after making their first appearances off the bench in the Leagues Cup Round of 32 win over Orlando City.
Just six minutes into his first start, Alba connected with Messi, cutting a pass back to the Argentine at the top of the box, where he struck a first-time shot inside the near post for the early 0-1 lead. The move marked the pair’s first connection for a goal in Inter Miami colors, one reminiscent of countless signature moments together at FC Barcelona; it was Alba’s first assist for the team.
Dallas then turned the tide, netting twice before halftime. First, in the 37th minute, Marco Farfan sent a cross in to Facundo Quignon, who connected with a volley to level the score. Then, in the 45th minute, Jesus Ferreira assisted Bernard Kamungo who scored to take the lead at 2-1 heading into halftime.
The hosts extended their lead in the 63rd minute when a free kick from Alan Velasco found the inside of the far post to make it 3-1.
Inter Miami cut into the deficit just two minutes later when Messi played a through ball towards the endline for Alba, who then played a ball back in front of goal, where substitute Cremaschi connected and struck just moments after coming on to make it 3-2. The goal was Cremaschi’s second for the team, while the assist was Alba’s second in just his first start and second appearance.
A pair of own goals - one for each side - followed, sending the match towards a frantic finish. Then, in the 85th minute, Messi stepped over a free kick from just outside the right corner of the box and curled his shot past the diving keeper and into the top right corner of the net to level the game at four goals apiece. The goal, Messi’s seventh in just four matches with Inter Miami and his third consecutive brace, sent the match into a dramatic penalty shootout.
All five Inter Miami takers - Messi, Busquets, Leonardo Campana, Miller and Cremaschi - netted, clinching a 5-4 penalty shootout win, culminating in Cremaschi’s heroic finish.
“In any team the subject of character is important. I think that we had it today. We made a lot of mistakes…but we also showed a sample of the team’s character, and that gave us the chance,” said head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino. “We’re really happy with the result and the wins which help us to continue evolving.”
Inter Miami will now head into the Leagues Cup quarterfinals on Friday, Aug. 11 at DRV PNK Stadium. The team will host the winner of Monday night’s Round of 16 match between Charlotte FC and Houston Dynamo FC.
DAL - 33.5%
MIA - 66.5%
DAL - 12
MIA - 12
DAL - 1
MIA - 1
DAL - 1
MIA - 1
DAL - 9
MIA - 8