Messi’s Late Goal Saves Miami, Securing Draw vs LA Galaxy

Photo of Messi scores goal to save point for Miami vs LA Galaxy.

On Sunday night, the LA Galaxy achieved a notable feat by largely containing Lionel Messi throughout the match, although not entirely.

With the Galaxy appearing poised for a season-opening triumph against Inter Miami CF at a packed Dignity Health Park in Carson, California, Messi intervened during second-half stoppage time to level the score after Dejan Joveljic had scored for the Galaxy, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Despite the return of former star David Beckham, now a co-owner of Miami, to LA, the Galaxy were relentless in their defensive approach against Miami’s key player, Messi, throughout the game, preventing him from scoring until the dying moments.

Inter Miami fielded their celebrated quartet of former Barcelona players – Jordi Alba, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, alongside Messi – but it was Ricard Puig, another La Masia academy product, who stole the spotlight in the first half.

Puig, who joined the Galaxy in 2022, delivered an outstanding performance in the opening 45 minutes, orchestrating play and forcing a crucial save from Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender, as the home team created better chances in the first half.

Puig, aged 24, had his penalty in the 13th minute denied by Callender following a foul by Busquets on Joseph Paintsil, a recent addition to the Galaxy, inside the penalty area, prompting the referee to award a penalty kick to the Galaxy.

During the initial half, Messi managed just 27 touches, representing his second-lowest count in a first half since joining Inter Miami, with the match remaining deadlocked at 0-0 at halftime.

“In the second half, the team began to show improvement,” remarked Miami manager Gerardo Martino. “We started to gain more control over the game, with smoother ball movement. Undoubtedly, they dominated in the first half. I believe it was the phase where Riqui Puig had the most possession.”

As the second half got underway, Paintsil continued to pose a threat down the right flank, and once again, Miami depended on Callender to preserve their position in the game with two remarkable saves before the 60-minute mark.

“It’s reminiscent of many games from last year,” commented Martino on Callender’s performance. “He was crucial once again, denying the penalty and preventing several potential goals.”

In the 69th minute, Miami had a prime opportunity when a Messi free kick ricocheted off the wall and landed at the feet of Diego Gómez, positioned directly in front of the goal. Nonetheless, John McCarthy, a recent addition to the Galaxy, pulled off an impressive diving save to keep the scoreline level at nil-nil.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 75th minute when the Galaxy capitalized on a well-deserved goal. Puig’s strike from outside the penalty area, following yet another rapid counter-attack, was deflected into the path of Mark Delgado. Delgado then laid off a pass to Joveljic, who calmly slotted the ball into the open net.

However, Delgado’s jubilation was short-lived as he received a second yellow card and was subsequently sent off moments later. Miami took advantage of the numerical superiority, with Messi seizing upon a loose ball, initiating a swift exchange of passes with Alba, and then dispatching a left-footed shot into the top corner for his inaugural goal of the 2024 MLS season.

Post-match, Galaxy coach Greg Vanney commended the synergy between Messi and Alba, recognizing the challenge in defending against them. Nonetheless, Vanney expressed frustration with the second yellow card issued to Delgado for what he perceived as a “soft” foul on Busquets. This ruling was made by a stand-in referee due to the ongoing lockout of MLS’ regular officials.

The atmosphere surrounding the match was electric, with the stadium in downtown Los Angeles brimming with anticipation hours before Messi’s debut against the Galaxy. The Galaxy, a five-time MLS champion franchise, has traditionally been the favored destination for European superstars seeking fresh opportunities in their mid-30s.

Beckham, whose transfer to the Galaxy in 2007 played a pivotal role in the expansion of MLS, is commemorated with a statue outside the team’s stadium. He is also credited with Inter’s ascent to prominence, a position previously dominated by the Galaxy, which boasted players such as Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the latter stages of their careers.

The excitement surrounding this match was a source of thrill for MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

Garber expressed that the event embodies the ideals and hard work put into the sport over the years, following his meeting with Beckham and Galaxy owner Phil Anschutz. He emphasized the collective dedication to maintaining this positive momentum.

For Garber, the occasion evokes memories of the sport’s status in 2007 and highlights the advancements made since then.

Looking ahead, the Galaxy will head to San Jose for their next match, a California Classico against the Earthquakes on March 2, while Miami will host intrastate rival Orlando City at home on the same day.


Follow Sports 360 Degrees!

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top
Share on Social Media