Inter Miami beat Cincinnati via penalties, to play Houston in US Open Cup final

Lionel Messi once again made his presence felt, helping Inter Miami to a 5-4 victory in a penalty shootout against MLS-leading Cincinnati, following a 3-3 draw. This win secured Inter Miami’s place in the US Open Cup final against Houston.

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Messi, who has remained undefeated in eight matches with Miami, provided two assists during regular play and successfully converted his penalty kick during the shootout. The 36-year-old seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, is set to make his Major League Soccer debut for the team against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. Having joined the team last month, Messi has played a key role in securing the Leagues Cup title.

Cincinnati initially took a 2-0 lead with goals from Luciano Acosta in the 18th minute and Brandon Vazquez in the 53rd minute. However, Messi helped Inter Miami comeback by assisting Leonardo Campana in the 68th minute and again in the seventh minute of stoppage time. Josef Martinez’s goal in extra time put Miami ahead 3-2, only for Yuya Kubo to equalise in the 114th minute.

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During the shootout, both teams successfully the first four shots, until Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender saved Nick Hagglund’s shot in the fifth round. Ben Cremaschi then converted his penalty kick, securing Inter Miami’s spot in the final against Houston.

In the other semifinal, Houston defeated Salt Lake 3-1 in extra time. Hector Herrera, Adalberto Carrasquilla, and Luis Caicedo scored for Houston, while Anderson Julio found the net for Salt Lake. The US Open Cup final is set to be hosted by Miami on September 27.

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Following Cremaschi’s decisive penalty, Miami players celebrated on the field, while Cincinnati players expressed disappointment by kneeling in reflection. Messi, who had scored 10 goals in seven League Cup matches, experienced a scoreless match for the first time since joining Miami.

Throughout the game, Messi faced close attention from Cincinnati’s defence whenever he had possession. Acosta’s header, assisted by Aaron Boupendza, marked his 14th goal across all competitions, and Vazquez, a United States national team forward, scored from outside the penalty area with an assist from Santiago Arias.

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Cincinnati saw the presence of notable football figures like Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Sam Hubbard present during the match.

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