CONCACAF Champions Cup
Lionel Messi's goal, assist propels Inter Miami to the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals
CONCACAF Champions Cup

Lionel Messi's goal, assist propels Inter Miami to the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals

Published Mar. 13, 2024 10:22 p.m. ET

Lionel Messi's magic has his Inter Miami off to the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals.

Messi scored a first half goal and set up former Barcelona strike partner Luis Suárez for another on Wednesday night against Nashville, with Robert Taylor adding another off a Suarez cross in the second half. 

The emphatic 3-1 victory in South Florida was enough for the Herons to take the two-game series, advancing 5-3 on aggregate. Sam Surridge scored a consolation goal for Nashville deep into second half stoppage time. 

Inter Miami will face either Mexican powerhouse Monterrey or MLS rival FC Cincinnati in the last eight of the continental championship, which resumes on April 2. FCC trails the Rayodos 1-0 heading into Thursday's decider south of the border.


Here are a few quick thoughts on the GOAT's latest masterpiece in Miami pink.

Play of the game

Messi's assist was part of a beautifully worked team goal. No fewer than five Miami players were involved in the buildup, with Suarez's brilliant dummy run allowing the ball to roll behind him to Messi, who simply one-touched the final pass behind Nashville's back line for Suarez to poke home:

Turning point

If there was any question about how seriously Herons coach Tata Martino and his team is taking this tournament, it was answered when Martino sat Messi out of Sunday's MLS regular season home loss to high-flying CF Montreal.

Messi and Suarez were the heroes in the first leg, and so it was again tonight. But it was the former's goal on Wednesday that simultaneously put the series out of reach and represented a statement of intent from the World Cup winner. At 36, Messi wants all the silverware he can still

He already led Miami to the inaugural Leagues Cup over this same Nashville side last summer, just a month after his stateside debut. With a 2025 FIFA Club World Cup berth at stake, Messi wants this title, too. That's bad news for Cincy, or Monterrey, or any other team that stands in his way.

Key stat

After going down 2-0 in Nashville 46 minutes into the 180 minutes, Miami scored five straight goals — the first four by Messi and Suarez — to win the total goals home and home comfortably. It appeared that Hany Mukhtar had pulled one back for the visitors late on before Surridge's last gasp strike, but Mukhtar's effort was ruled offside following VAR review. 

What's next for Inter Miami?

The Herons return to league action when they travel to the nation's capital to take on D.C. United on Saturday night. If he plays, it could be Messi's last game with his club until March 30, as he's expected to be selected for Argentina's upcoming Copa America tuneups versus Honduras and Costa Rica later this month.

What's next for Nashville?

If there's a silver lining for Gary Smith's squad, it's that they can now devote all of their attention on league play and, ultimately, trying to win MLS Cup. Nashville hosts Charlotte on Saturday, then heads out west to take on LAFC the following weekend.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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Lionel Messi
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