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Messi Helps Inter Miami Past MLS-best Cincinnati In U.S. Open Cup Semifinal Game

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In a U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday night, Inter Miami overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat MLS-leading Cincinnati 5-4 on penalties thanks in part to two assists from Lionel Messi and a successful penalty kick.

Cincinnati went out to a 2-0 lead before Messi helped Leonardo Campana score twice to even the score at 2. Miami took the lead three minutes into the first overtime session on a goal from Josef Martnez, but Cincinnati leveled the score three minutes later on a goal from Yuya Kubo, requiring a penalty shootout.

Messi successfully completed Miami’s opening shootout attempt, and both teams were unbeaten after four rounds. Drake Callender, the goalie for the Herons, stopped Nick Hagglund’s kick in the fifth round, but Benjamin Cremaschi converted on a penalty kick to advance Miami to yet another championship final.

The winner of Wednesday’s late semifinal between Houston and Salt Lake will play Miami in the championship game on September 27.

For the first time since joining Inter Miami in late July, Messi was held without a goal. His first contribution of the contest came in the 68th minute on a free kick that reduced Miami’s deficit to 2-1. He sent a long cross into the area, where Campana headed in the second goal to force overtime.

The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or award, who last year captained Argentina to victory at the World Cup, has 10 goals in his first seven games with Miami, helping the team win the Leagues Cup. On Saturday, he will play in his first Major League Soccer match.

The first two goals for Cincinnati were scored by Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez.

The Argentine No. 10 and captain of Cincinnati scored his 14th goal across all competitions this season off a header from Aaron Boupendza to give his team a 1-0 lead early in the first half.

U.S. national team striker Vazquez doubled Cincinnati’s advantage in the 53rd minute with a laser shot from outside the box, assisted by former Atletico Madrid defender Santiago Arias and a cross from Colombia.

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