Lionel Messi is a game away from helping Inter Miami win its second major trophy since his arrival after they won another penalty shootout to advance past host FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals following a 3-3 draw on Wednesday.
Drake Callender saved a penalty from Nick Hagglund to play hero for the second time in as many games, and Benjamin Cremaschi converted Miami’s final spot kick to earn a 5-4 win in the tiebreaker after a wild game.
Messi failed to score for the first time since joining Miami last month, but he assisted on two second-half headed goals by Leonardo Campana to help the Herons fight out of a two-goal hole and force extra time. The match was tied 2-2 after 90 minutes.
Messi’s unbeaten run with the Herons remained intact through eight games, four days after he helped Miami defeat Nashville SC on penalties in the Leagues Cup final, with Callendar making two saves in that shootout.
The Leagues Cup marked Miami’s first major silverware since it entered Major League Soccer in 2020 as an expansion team. Now the Herons will play for a second on Sept. 27 against the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal between the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake.
Josef Martinez gave Miami the lead in the first half of extra time before Yuya Kubo’s equalizer in the second extra-time half forced penalties.
Luciano Acosta scored early and Brandon Vazquez added a goal early in the second half to give Cincinnati a 2-0 lead.
FC Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan removed both goal-scorers later in regulation in favor of defensive reinforcements to try to close out the victory.
Martinez, who started alongside Messi in the last six Leagues Cup games, came off the bench late on Wednesday.
He gave the Herons their first lead of the evening only three minutes into extra time, when he ran onto an excellent throughball from Cremaschi and pounded a low finish past Cincinnati goalie Alec Kann.
However, after Kubo had a potential goal disallowed in regulation for a correct handball decision, he pulled the hosts level with an exceptional strike in the 114th minute.
—Field Level Media
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