Soccer

Lionel Messi kicks off MLS season with man-of-the-match display

The Argentina star put on a show in the star-studded Major League Soccer curtain raiser against Real Salt Lake.

Lionel Messi shone in the MLS opener (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Lionel Messi shone in the MLS opener Lionel Messi shone in the MLS opener (Lynne Sladky/AP) (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham had a front row seat as star man Lionel Messi put on a show in the Major League Soccer curtain raiser against Real Salt Lake.

The Manchester United and England great flew to Florida for the season opener and will have liked what he saw from Tata Martino’s ambitious team in Wednesday’s 2-0 win.

Messi put in a man-of-the-match display, producing some outrageous footwork, seeing a free-kick cleared off the line and hitting the bar directly from a corner before setting up Robert Taylor’s opener.

The 36-year-old received a half-time hug from Will Smith – one of the stars in attendance at upgraded Chase Stadium – and continued to play with an irresistible swagger.

While Miami lost their way as a team after their dominant first half, they dug deep and eventually killed off vastly improved RSL.

Messi showed brilliant strength, speed and close control to drive forward through the middle before playing in Luis Suarez, who set up Diego Gomez to score in the 83rd minute.

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham hugs Luis Suarez (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham hugs Luis Suarez Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham hugs Luis Suarez (Lynne Sladky/AP) (Lynne Sladky/AP)

That moment gave Miami new life and the former Liverpool striker saw a debut goal brilliantly denied by Zac MacMath, who was guilty of allowing Taylor’s first-half strike to squirm past him.

Salt Lake’s goalkeeper also thwarted Messi at the end of an incredible run down the right as the hosts ended a challenging second half on a high.

In truth, the only person able to keep up with the Argentina skipper on Wednesday was his personal bodyguard, who went up and down the touchline tracking the star throughout the game.