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

Ryan Baldi
Lionel Messi and LA Galaxy man Maya Yoshida
Lionel Messi and LA Galaxy man Maya Yoshida

It turns out Argentina produce some pretty decent No.10s – who knew? Several of them stood out in MLS this weekend. It was a tough week to be unbeaten, though.


MLS weekend winners

Argentinian No.10s
It was a good weekend for the Argentinian No.10s of MLS. The most famous of them all returned to action after missing almost a month due to a hamstring injury.

Lionel Messi started on the bench – alongside Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez – for an injury-ravaged Inter Miami. But fans inside Chase Stadium didn’t have to wait long to catch a glimpse of the GOAT. With Miami trailing the Colorado Rapids 1-0, the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner was brought on at half-time.

And it took Messi just 12 minutes to make his mark. Connecting with Franco Negri’s low cross, he did what he has been doing for the best part of two decades – making the incredibly difficult look remarkably easy. The 36-year-old punched in a first-time finish from 20 yards to level the score. And he was involved again when the Herons took the lead three minutes later, releasing David Ruiz, who then set up Leo Afonso to score.

Miami ultimately couldn’t shake their stuttering form; they were forced to settle for a draw thanks to Cole Bassett’s 88th-minute leveller. But Messi’s contribution after a lengthy lay-off bodes well for Inter’s hopes of overturing a first-leg deficit against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Wednesday and proved, once again, that gold doesn’t rust.

“It’s the usual from Leo, what he provokes in our team, in his teammates, in people,” Miami boss Gerardo Martino said post-match. “And the most important thing is that he felt comfortable, he felt good, he felt loose.”

In other ‘Argentinian attacking midfielders being good at football’ news, Sebastian Driussi scored the latest goal in Austin FC’s history to fire Los Verdes to a second successive victory. The former River Plate and Zenit star had already netted from the spot, dragging his side back into what would be the game of the weekend against San Jose after they’d fallen behind 2-0. Then, in the 101st minute, Driussi struck – and what a strike. Crashing in a right-footed effort from outside the box, the 2022 MVP runner-up sealed a 4-3 win and ensured a spectacular conclusion to a thoroughly bonkers back-and-forth tie.

“Seba Driussi is one of the best players in the league,” head coach Josh Wolff said.

And although his side surprisingly lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls, FC Cincinnati’s reigning MVP Luciano Acosta delivered one of the assists of the week after just three minutes at TQL Stadium, clipping a perfectly lofted cross on to Yaya Kubo’s head barely a yard from the gaping goal.

READ: We’re delighted to announce that Lionel Messi is still football’s greatest extra-terrestrial


Showing Racism the Red Bull
On Thursday, the Red Bulls withdrew two of their teams from the Generation Adidas Cup, an MLS-run youth tournament in Florida, following multiple instances of their players being subjected to racist abuse from opposing players.

“What has happened these past two games is completely inappropriate and has changed our team forever,” 14-year-old midfielder Adri Mehmeti wrote of the incident on Instagram.

“The extreme lack of action taken by the league is unacceptable and has left a feeling of untrust and uncertainty in the hands of our safety and well-being while playing in this event and our games back home. We hope this situation will bring light to an ongoing problem in the game of football and in our world. Thank you.”

It’s saddening that young footballers find themselves the targets for such treatment, but credit to the youngsters for taking a stand and to the club for supporting them in their boycott.

And the Red Bulls’ senior side scored the upset of the weekend, defeating last season’s Supporters’ Shield champions FC Cincinnati 2-1 away from home. Karmic reward or not, it was a sweet victory for Sandro Schwarz’s men in what has become something of a grudge match following a heated clash between the two teams in last season’s play-offs. The Red Bulls now top the Eastern Conference and lead the race for the Supporters’ Shield.


MLS weekend losers

Broken records
Defeat to the Red Bulls brought to an end Cincinnati’s unbeaten start to the 2024 MLS season, and they were not the only side to receive a first notch in the loss column this weekend.

The LA Galaxy headed into El Traffico – the creatively named Los Angeles derby – top of the West and unbeaten in their first six fixtures of the new campaign.

Rivals LAFC, by contrast, had lost more games than they’d won and went into the game at BMO Stadium in 10th place.

But LAFC, despite claiming just a 32.5% share of possession, were 2-1 victors and, through stout defence and effective counter-attacking, exerted a degree of control over proceedings that belied the possession stats. The Galaxy made more than twice as many passes as the home side – 697 to 335. But LAFC took more total shots – 20 to 18 – and landed more than twice as many efforts on target – nine to four.

Their margin of victory ought to have been more comfortable, too. Denis Bouanga, the 2023 Golden Boot winner, scored LAFC’s second goal from the penalty spot, but he also produced one of the misses of the season, firing over from eight yards when faced with an open goal.

Those defeats for Cincinnati and the Galaxy leave the Philadelphia Union – who scored a last-minute 2-1 away win over Nashville SC – as the league’s last remaining unbeaten side.

READ: Olivier Giroud is one sexy Hollywood leading man but MLS needs Griezmann


Cuch-oh No!
Last season’s MLS Cup MVP was widely expected to be in the running for the regular-season version of that award in 2024, but that would first require Cucho Hernandez to get out of his own way.

The former Watford striker missed the Columbus Crew’s last two fixtures – a 2-2 MLS draw with DC United and a 1-1 CONCACAF Champions Cup draw with Tigres in midweek – for what appeared to be an internal disciplinary issue. When questioned about the Colombian’s absence, manager Wilfried Nancy made no effort to lift the mystery around his star player’s omittance; the coach chose not to elaborate after confirming it was a matter of “team policy”.

Then, back in the side for the visit of DC United, Hernandez was sent off after 75 minutes, shown a straight red card for kicking out when embroiled in a tangle with Christopher McVey.

At the time, the Crew trailed to a Christian Benteke goal – the former Aston Villa striker’s fifth of the season. They managed to salvage a point when Aidan Morris struck from long range with three minutes to play, but if Columbus hope to retain the MLS Cup they won last season, they’ll need to be able to rely on their star striker to get himself on the pitch and stay there.