FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Each time Lionel Messi lined up for a free kick in his first road game for Inter Miami, thousands of fans packed into a stadium in the searing Texas heat stood and held up their cell phones, ready to record.
They all got video of a repeat of history.
Messi scored on another mesmerizing free kick in his third consecutive two-goal game for Inter Miami, a tying tally that led to a victory over FC Dallas on penalty kicks in a Leagues Cup elimination game Sunday night.
Messi’s goal in the 85th minute for a 4-4 tie was reminiscent of the game-winner in his Inter Miami debut, both on free kicks from just outside the penalty box in the waning moments, both sneaking past the goalkeeper into the upper corner of the net.
This time, the left-footed superstar was to the right of the net, and beat FC Dallas’ Maarten Paes to the near post the same way he did from the left side in a 2-1 win over Mexican club Cruz Azul in his Inter Miami debut.
“I think it’s not much to say. I think everyone can see,” FC Dallas coach Nico Estévez said. “It’s obvious that for him a free kick around there is like a PK for another player. You have to pray that the ball goes out of bounds or he fell in the run to kick the ball.”
The victory in the round of 16 sent Inter Miami into the Leagues Cup quarterfinals against the winner Monday night between Charlotte FC and Houston.
The second of Messi’s three consecutive two-goal games came in the first Leagues Cup elimination game, a 3-1 Miami victory over Orlando City that was delayed by an hour and a half because of a torrential rainstorm in Florida.
The fifth match in Texas in Messi’s illustrious career had a kickoff temperature of 100 degrees (38 degrees celsius) on the 14th consecutive day of triple-digit heat in the Dallas area.
Because of the high temperatures, teams took a heat break near the halfway point of each half.
Messi’s first goal outside of Florida for his new U.S. club was another left-footed strike outside the penalty area in the sixth minute, on a pass from former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba. It was initially disallowed on an offsides call that was overturned on review.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup champion for Argentina has scored in all four matches for Inter Miami, with seven goals total. His new U.S. club is 4-0 — all in the Leagues Cup — after going winless in nine consecutive MLS matches before the 36-year-old arrived.
“We are very glad to be moving on and these types of games help us to continue to develop as a team and fix our mistakes,” Miami coach Gerardo Martino said through an interpreter. “We still have a long way to go to be at the level we want but in the end, I am glad that we obtained the victory.”
Messi had the first penalty kick with a slow-moving approach to his shot into the right corner. The difference was Paxton Pomykal missing over the crossbar on the second FC Dallas attempt.
Benjamin Cremaschi, who scored in the 65th minute, had the clincher as Miami finished with a 5-3 edge in the shootout.
FC Dallas had gone ahead 4-2 on Robert Taylor’s own goal in the 68th minute, but Dallas gave an own goal right back in the 80th minute. Marco Farfan put a header into his net on a cross from Messi on a free kick from outside the left corner of the penalty box.
Soon after, Taylor had a moment of redemption when he was fouled by Eugene Ansah, setting up Messi for a replay that sent the crowd of 19,096 into a frenzy.
Miami co-owner David Beckham saw the first one at home 17 days ago. He was here for this one, too, in a stadium where tickets that normally go for about $40 were selling for hundreds of dollars, and in some cases listed for more than $1,000.
Facundo Quignon and Bernard Kamungo scored in the first half for FC Dallas to erase the 1-0 deficit from Messi’s early goal.
Alan Velasco, a native of Argentina who grew up idolizing Messi, made it 3-1 with a bouncing free kick that eluded several defenders and keeper Drake Callender in the 63rd minute.
“I accomplished one of my biggest dreams today,” the 20-year-old Velasco said. “It was such a surreal experience that after many years of watching him play, I finally got to share the field with him.”
Two minutes after Velasco scored, Cremaschi pulled Inter Miami within a goal to set up the wild finish. Messi had a hand in Cremaschi’s goal, sending a pass that Alba kept from going over the end line before passing to Cremaschi.
“To have players like him here will make our players better,” Estévez said of Messi. “When you have to face this kind of level, you have to do better. And you can see FC Dallas today, how some of our players raised their level.”
AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer