Sergio Busquets shows elite IQ on Inter Miami winner

Even a Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami CF is a team to be reckoned with – as fellow FC Barcelona legend Sergio Busquets showed in Saturday night's 3-2 home win over Sporting Kansas City.

Without their superstar No 10 – one of the squad's eight international call-up absences – Busquets took over the Herons' midfield and devised the game's defining moment in the 60th minute.

After referee Ismail Elfath whistled Andreu Fontàs for an apparent handball, Busquets immediately slipped a long, incisive pass for Facundo Farías, who scored the third and, ultimately, winning goal for the hosts at DRV PNK Stadium.

The result made it 12 straight games unbeaten for Miami in all competitions, as they move within six points of the Eastern Conference's Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoff line. On the flip side, Sporting's own postseason dreams suffered a blow with Saturday's setback and they remain two points behind the line in the Western Conference.

Fair play?

Not surprisingly, both camps had different perspectives of what could be a season-altering play.

For Miami manager Gerardo Martino, it was a typical sequence from a once-in-a-generation midfielder he also previously coached at Barça.

“The only thing I saw was Busi, the ref called a foul I think, Busi put the ball on the ground," Martino said, familiar with the legendary ex-Spanish international's soccer acumen. "It was a quick play, I don’t know if there was anything else. It’s what I managed to see from the bench.”

SKC manager and sporting director Peter Vermes was less impressed with what he saw.

"[Fontàs] says the ball never hit his hand at all, so I'm going with what he said. It never hit his hand at all," Vermes said postmatch.

"But I go back to it. The referee's talking to the player. There's no way that he should have let the play continue if he's talking to our player. There's no way he should let the play go on."

Next test

What's done is done and now Miami look to maintain their late postseason push during next Saturday's (5 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) visit to Atlanta United.

"We'll look at [the standings] when it's appropriate," Martino said of the club's chances of earning a playoff spot. "But for now we have to keep getting results because we've gotten 10 points of 12, and we're still far away. So we have to keep going."