Lionel Messi magic in Mahomes’ home makes MLS winner a no-brainer

Ryan Baldi
Lionel Messi with the MLS badge.
Lionel Messi with the MLS badge.

The world’s greatest footballer stole the show at the home of the NFL’s biggest star to dump misery on the club Patrick Mahomes part-owns.


MLS winners

Messi magic in Mahomes’ home
Lionel Messi put on a show at the home of the NFL’s back-to-back Super Bowl champions on Saturday night, although there was a blank space in the luxury box Taylor Swift has come to frequent. But to keep the Swifties interested: spot the seven song titles subtly hidden in this segment.

Inter Miami had been unceremoniously dumped out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup by Mexican side Monterrey in midweek and were winless in their last three MLS outings. Call it what you want, but that’s not good enough for a club with designs on multiple trophies.

As far as that run of poor form was concerned, though, Messi and co. were able to shake it off at Arrowhead Stadium, which was on loan to Sporting Kansas City for the evening from the Kansas City Chiefs.

As Messi walked past Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the bowels of the arena pre-match, the two-time NFL MVP instructed the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner to “have fun” – GOAT recognises GOAT, it seems. And to the misfortune of the home side, for whom Mahomes is a minority owner, Inter’s superstar did exactly that.

The former Barcelona icon provided a trade-mark defence-splitting pass to assist Diego Gomez’s equaliser in the 18th minute, after Erik Thommy had given the home side an early lead in front of a 72,000 sell-out crowd.

Then, early in the second half, Messi gave the fans a goal they could only have pictured in their wildest dreams. Collecting the ball 25 yards from goal, he took one electric touch to set himself before rifling into the top corner.

Thommy levelled with a goal of equal quality just seven minutes later. But Luis Suarez scored from close range in the 71st minute to get Inter out of the woods and record a much-needed victory.

“We had to get out of that dynamic of tying games, losing and making errors,” Miami manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said post-match. “Today we managed to get out of that dynamic in a week that was difficult and long.

“We recovered sensations and ended up winning the game in a good way. In that way, we are satisfied.”

A hamstring injury has caused Messi to miss four of Miami’s nine league fixtures so far this term, but in the five he has been available for, he has continued to provide all-time-great production. He is now only the fourth player in MLS history to record 10 goal contributions in his first five games of a season.

The win left Miami top of the Eastern Conference. Still worried about their title credentials? You need to calm down.

READ: Lionel Messi proves gold doesn’t rust as racism is shown the Red Bull


Galaxy’s new star shines
After losing ‘El Trafico’ to local rivals LAFC last weekend, Los Angeles Galaxy’s bright start to the 2024 season could have been thrust into peril with a trip to face fellow Western Conference standouts the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

Dejan Joveljic put the away side ahead early in the second half, but when Brian White equalised with a header from a Ryan Gauld corner – the seventh set-piece goal the Galaxy have conceded already in eight games this season – it looked as though Greg Vanney’s side were destined to drop more points.

Paintsil had other ideas, though. The Ghanaian winger, a $9million summer signing from Gent, raced in behind the Vancouver backline to latch on to a perfectly calibrated Riqui Puig through-ball and finish calmly in the 80th minute.

It was the 26-year-old’s third goal of his debut MLS campaign. And two minutes later, he racked up his third assist, again racing clear down the right flank before cutely cutting back for Diego Fegundez to score and fire LA to the top of the West.

Powered by Paintsil and Puig, the Galaxy look contenders to add to their record haul of five MLS Cups – provided they drop the Day of the Dead routine when defending dead balls.


MLS losers

Collapsing Kansas
Their loss to Messi and Miami means Sporting Kansas City are stuck on just one home win for the season – even if this one wasn’t at their usual home, the 18,000-capacity Children’s Mercy Park.

That solitary victory on home soil hardly makes for impressive reading, either; they scraped a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the current inauspicious owners of the worst record in MLS.

And the defeat to Inter Miami marked a continuation of another worrying theme for KC, who, having led early on, again dropped points from a winning position.

In just the second week of the season, they conceded in the 94th minute to slip to a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union. They led LA Galaxy 2-0, only to capitulate over the course of eight second-half minutes to lose 3-2. And against Phil Neville’s Portland Timbers last week, Kansas led 3-0 yet still only came away with a point.

In front of 72,000 at Arrowhead, Sporting had the chance to kickstart their season with a statement win against a wounded Miami team. Instead, in a stadium used to housing a gridiron juggernaut, they found familiar ways to fall short.


Fault lines in San Jose
The San Jose Earthquakes are another side contriving to find ways to lose games.

Against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, the Quakes enjoyed a 58.9% share of possession and outshot their visitors by a margin of 22 to 13.

Yet they were smashed 3-0.

Despite their domination of the ball and frequent efforts at goal, former Manchester City keeper Zack Steffen was seldom tested between the sticks for the Rapids as the home side offered as much cutting edge as a baby-proofed blancmange.

The result leaves San Jose bottom of the Western Conference and, with just one win from eight games, the worst record in the league.

What’s frustrating from an Earthquakes point of view is that they ought to be significantly better. They have conceded 20 goals, the worst defensive record in MLS so far this season. But the cumulative expected goals (xG) of the chances they have conceded is just 11.91, a mid-ranking number that suggests they’ve thus far fallen victim to outstanding opposition finishing.

And in attack, they have scored 10 goals, but the xG of the chances they have conjured is 11.5, again suggesting they should be performing slightly better.

The numbers point toward a brighter outlook than the picture currently painted by the standings. But any turnaround might have to wait – next up, they’re away to LA Galaxy.