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Published on February 26, 2024
Messi's Stoppage-Time Goal Secures Dramatic 1-1 Draw for Inter Miami Against LA GalaxySource: Facebook/Inter Miami CF

On a night filled with high expectations for star-studded Inter Miami, Lionel Messi emerged as the saving grace, clinching a last-gasp goal to secure a hopeful 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy yesterday. Messi's strike in the second minute of stoppage time kept Miami's unbeaten record intact, in what was a nail-biting finish to the early-season skirmish.

Messi's moment of brilliance, a deft chip over Galaxy goalkeeper John McCarthy, was served up courtesy of a nifty exchange with his former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba. The Galaxy, however, had looked poised to upset Miami's rhythm with Dejan Joveljic scoring in the 75th minute, after a stifling performance that left the LA side a man down following Mark Delgado's ejection in the 87th minute for a questionable foul, as stated by CBS News Miami.

Despite the draw, the atmosphere was reportedly "pretty electric" at the Galaxy's home opener, especially given the presence of 27,642 fans—a record for a regular-season game at the Galaxy's stadium—with thousands donning Messi jerseys to witness the showdown. Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender managed to rack up eight saves including a pivotal stop on a penalty shot from the Galaxy's Riqui Puig, who was praised for his impact on the game. "It's still early in the season, so there's things we need to work on, but earning a point on the road is good. We don't want to get comfortable at all. We have a long season ahead," Callender told CBS News Miami.

Inter Miami, wielding a roster peppered with former Barcelona greats such as Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, and Alba, alongside Messi, were widely touted to rule the Major League Soccer seasons, yet the early challenge from the Galaxy has been a bit of a reality check. The Galaxy, already well known for attracting aging European superstars in the past, presented a rejuvenated squad this time around, applying more offensive pressure throughout the match and outshooting Miami 23 to 11, according to a post by Roy Nemer on X.

Meanwhile, Miami's coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino acknowledged the Galaxy's prowess—attributing their strong game to Puig's midfield control and the arrival of new players who have significantly changed the dynamics of the team. "Puig made them play very well, and it's clear that (with) their two new players, the team is totally different because they have a good No. 9 and two wingers who are dangerous. They played a good game," Martino revealed, as reported by CBS News Miami.

With Beckham’s statue standing tall outside the Galaxy's stadium, his legacy paved the way for Inter Miami's rise, and the thrilling fixture was a testament to the growth of the MLS since Beckham's influential move in 2007. MLS Commissioner Don Garber summed up the momentum on the night, noting, "It sort of represents everything we wanted this sport to be, and have worked so hard for so many years. Everybody is working hard to build on this momentum." Although a win escaped Inter Miami's grasp, Messi's injury-time heroics served to dignify the expectations surrounding his MLS conquests, and the match itself highlighted the league's continuing evolution in the Beckham era and beyond.