In just four games, the 2022 FIFA World Cup champion with Argentina has added to his already-massive legend, scoring seven goals, contributing three assists and producing countless viral moments as the Herons have become tournament sensations.
Just how can Messi’s dream start to life in Miami get even better? Lifting the Leagues Cup trophy, of course.
“[Messi] is ratifying with actions something he said as soon as he arrived: ‘I came to compete,’” head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino stated of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who could very well add an eighth to his personal collection by year’s end.
And with fellow summer blockbuster signings/FC Barcelona icons Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba also helping the new-look Herons turn into a force to be reckoned with, the winning vibes are growing by the day.
“The team is looking very good, very united, with a lot of positive energy,” said homegrown midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi, who scored the fifth and clinching penalty kick in Sunday night’s 5-3 PK shootout victory over FC Dallas in the Round of 16.
“We’re starting to feel what it’s like to win and what it looks like to be able to fight to win a first trophy for this club.”
As good as things have gone for the Herons in Leagues Cup, they’ve been far from perfect. The club’s defensive vulnerabilities were exposed by Dallas, who struck for four goals during regulation time before Messi’s late heroics forced the PK shootout that Miami eventually won.
“I wouldn’t risk mixing results with performances. In terms of performances, we still have a long way to go,” Martino cautioned.
Plus, awaiting this Friday is a hungry Charlotte FC side that would love nothing more than to bust up the Messi Leagues Cup party.
“They’re a tough team, they press really well. We have to find the spaces to confuse them and to break them down.” Cremaschi said. “… We have to expect the best from them.”
Should Miami win, much like their prior three Leagues Cup games at DRV PNK Stadium, they'll meet either the Philadelphia Union or Liga MX side Querétaro FC in an Aug. 15 semifinal.
The midsummer tournament's final is held on Aug. 19, leaving Messi three matches from his first-ever trophy since formally joining the Herons in mid-July.
"Hopefully we can achieve things," said veteran forward Josef Martínez. "At the end of the day, it's what the fans and we want."