Lionel Messi, with another goal, after a violent penalty shootout, leads Inter Miami to the League Cup title

Lionel Messi’s influence began As a commercial phenomenon before even goats Signed with Inter Miami. It started as a big ticket bonus, an Instagram boom, and a buzz unlike any Football League the Football League has ever seen. It was immediate, explosive and overwhelming. However, it somewhat underestimated how charming Messi was once he stepped onto a soccer field on the US side.

He joined the last place team after several weeks off. He instantly turned this team into the best in MLS.

And within a month, on Saturday in Nashville, assisted by guard Drake Callender in an 11-round shootout, he led Miami to its first-ever title.

Nashville put up a fight, a hard fight, and matched Messi’s goal with a goal of their own. An exciting match ended 1-1, but was bettered by a penalty shootout. After near-perfection on both sides, Callender converted Miami’s 11th punt, then saved #11 Nashville to clinch the title.

Messi and his comrades marched towards him victoriously. They danced around Callender, the man of the match. But of course, they knew their party wasn’t possible with Messi, so they picked him up and lifted him into the air.

Messi scored nine goals in six matches on his way to the League Cup final. In that final, he scored a 10th-place finish, a classic curl from the top of the box, to the top corner.

He barely touched the ball for 22 minutes. He was booed and jeered by a frenzied crowd in Nashville when he botched a single scoreless pass.

Then, he got a single glimpse of the target. Catch the ball with his left foot. Dance around Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman. And make more magic.

He sparked a conversation all month long about how a self-respecting league that fancies itself as one of the best in the world could eventually let a single 36-year-old tear it down on his own. And sometimes, the conversation was just right.

But not on Saturday. Nashville pinpointed the greatest goal maker of all time in just one first-half glimpse. And he, Messi, was and remains indescribably cool.

He ripped through some shoddy defenses throughout his first month in Miami. This, though, has conceded less than a goal per game over two-thirds of the MLS season. He’s the strongest in the entire league, and looked miserly on Saturday when he lined up in a 4-4-2 with powerful defensive midfielders to stifle Messi – or at least try to.

One of them, Anibal Godoy, slammed the classic CONCACAF elbow into Messi’s chest early on.

Nashville happily conceded possession, and for most of the first half, the home team ensured Miami didn’t do too much with it.

Messi, of course, only needed it once to give Miami a 1-0 lead.

But Nashville is hanging on to the game. It evolved into the second half, and equalized in the 57th minute, via a free kick and an own goal.

Messi slid into another dangerous midfield soon after, and beat Nashville goaltender Elliott Panico once again—but his shot hit the base of the post.

It was Nashville, though, that stayed afloat. MLS MVP Hany Mokhtar sprinted behind the Miami defense, and he and forward Sam Surig nearly gave Nashville the lead.

In stoppage time, Surridge hit a header into the palm of Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.

A minute later, in a penalty shootout, Leonardo Campana broke away from the Nashville defense, and this inaugural League Cup nearly delivered an impressive finish. It was 1 on 1 with Panicco. He clipped the ball to Panico’s sprawling body. I dribbled towards the far post. Campana slipped for it, and tried to exploit it into a snap net—but hit the outside of the post.

Messi put his hands on his head. The match went to a penalty shootout.

Messi missed the opening penalty of the shootout, but Mokhtar managed to match it.

Sergio Busquets also kept his nerve, and then, with Nashville’s second try, Randall Leal didn’t. He hit the penalty kick directly at Callender’s legs. Inter advantage.

Miami still leads after three innings, and still leads after four. But Nashville stayed within striking distance. Panico then saved would-be winner Victor Ulua, and Surig scored to send the penalty shootout to sudden death.

Serhiy Krivtsov scored for Miami in the sixth round. Nashville’s Chuck Moore went into the same top corner to equalise.

Jordi Alba scored, on his first penalty shootout attempt in his entire professional career, in the seventh round for Miami. But Nashville’s Daniel Lovitz held serve.

Diego Gomez kept Miami a step ahead in the eighth round. But Lucas McNaughton brought Nashville level again.

19-year-old David Ruiz nearly kept Miami, but Sean Davis made it 8-8 after nine innings. DeAndre Yedlin and Jacob Shaffelburg made it 9-9 after 10.

Callender, the Miami guard, converted with authority in the 11th round, then moved to his left to deny Panicco.

By the end of the night, Messi – the tournament’s top scorer and best player – had lifted the 44th trophy of his unparalleled career, a new world soccer record.

His conversion at Inter, with the help of some old friends, was multifaceted. He, along with head coach Tata Martino and midfielder Busquets, have transformed a rough-and-tumble squad into a buzzing unit. He can pull opponents towards him without the ball, carving out acres of space for Joseph Martinez and Robert Taylor. He immediately took the captain’s armband and overhauled the club’s culture, even with an incomplete understanding of the English language. He has been described as a coach on the field. He’s been greeted as an affectionate presence in the locker room. He energized every member of the club’s staff, including the players.

And then, on top of all that, he scored in seven straight matches.

His next task will be to reach the semi-finals of the US Open Cup. And then, finally, he will make his debut in MLS, which has only 12 matches left. Inter Miami remains at the bottom of the Eastern League, with 18 points from 22 matches.

Miami, however, has it now The participant has the second shortest odds of winning the MLS Cup.

Since Messi’s debut on July 21, Miami has risen From 891st in Opta’s World Soccer Power Rankings to 372nd.

This is also the Messi effect.

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