Messi Scores Late, Inter Miami Draw With LA Galaxy

Sunday night saw the LA Galaxy come within minutes of defeating Inter Miami CF in their opening match of the 2024 MLS season. Instead, Lionel Messi ruined the party with a late goal.

As the Galaxy seemed destined for a victorious start to the season against Miami at the packed Dignity Health Park in Carson, California, Messi emerged in stoppage time of the second half to nullify Dejan Joveljic’s earlier goal and salvage a 1-1 draw for his side.

In a match marked by the return of former LA star and current Miami co-owner David Beckham, the Galaxy showed little hospitality toward the South Florida club’s main man, relentlessly pressuring Messi across the pitch for the duration of the game, denying him a goal until the dying moments.

Despite Miami fielding their celebrated quartet of ex-Barcelona players — Jordi Alba, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, alongside Messi — it was another La Masia academy product, Riqui Puig, who stole the spotlight in the first half.

Puig, who made his move to the Galaxy in 2022, showcased his presence throughout the initial 45 minutes. Puig controlled the pitch and prompted a crucial save from Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender — one that the Miami keeper pushed into the crossbar.

The 24-year-old faced a setback in the 13th minute when Callender denied his penalty kick, earned after Busquets brought down the Galaxy’s recent acquisition Joseph Paintsil in the box.

Meanwhile, Messi’s influence was limited. His 27 touches in the first half were his second-lowest tally in a first half since joining Miami.

“In the second half, the team started to get better,” said Miami boss Gerardo Martino. “We began to control the game a little more, the ball moved more fluidly. It’s true that in the first half, they did dominate [the game]. I think it was the period where Riqui Puig had the ball the most.”

In the 69th minute, Miami nearly scored the opening goal when a deflected Messi free kick landed perfectly at the feet of Diego Gómez. However, Galaxy keeper John McCarthy pulled off a remarkable save to keep the game level.

It wasn’t until the 75th minute that the Galaxy finally broke through with a well-deserved goal. Puig unleashed a shot from outside the box, initiating yet another swift counter-attack. Although the initial attempt was blocked, Mark Delgado pounced on the rebound and delivered a precise pass to Joveljic, who calmly slotted the ball into the empty net.

However, the joy was short-lived as Delgado received his second yellow card moments later — leaving LA a man down for the closing minutes of the game. Miami capitalized on the advantage, with Messi seizing upon a loose ball and orchestrating a sublime one-two exchange with Alba before slotting home the tying goal in stoppage time.

“When he [Messi] and Alba connect like that, it’s ridiculous,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said after the match. “It’s really, really difficult to defend and Alba is very good at finding Messi when he gets on the move like that. Unfortunately, he just slipped away from us for a split second and that became the difference.”