Lionel Messi, Inter Miami advance to U.S. Open Cup final after dramatic penalty kick shootout

Inter Miami are through to another cup final. Lionel Messi and company went to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday and edged the hosts in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in a penalty shootout, 5-4. Drake Callender's save on Nick Hagglund's penalty take proved to be the difference as Benjamin Cremaschi buried the deciding penalty yet again for the Herons, adding to an assist that he had in stoppage time.

The wild match finished 2-2 after regulation and 3-3 after extra time with Inter coming back from two goals down to equalize late into second-half stoppage time. After Lionel Messi's two assists saw them draw level, Josef Martinez gave his side the lead early in extra time but Inter would concede late on to force the spot kicks on a great finish from Yuya Kubo, who was knocking on the door after entering the match. 

After winning this match, Inter Miami will now host the Open Cup final on Sept. 27 against the Houston Dynamo who defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1 on Wednesday night. It'll be the second Open Cup final for the Dynamo who last won the competition in 2018 while Miami will have a chance to win their second trophy this season. 

Tata Martino made quite a few changes with Miami playing their third game in eight days, shifting to a 3-5-2 formation that saw Tomas Aviles debut and Jean Mota return to the starting XI from his injury. But the Herons seemed disjointed in that formation, allowing Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez to hurt them on counters to give Cincinnati an early 2-0 lead. 

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But when a team has Messi, a two-goal lead isn't enough as a foul on Facundo Farias gave the World Cup winner a free kick in a good area, and he found Leonardo Campana for the goal before feeding Campana again from open play deep into stoppage time. It's the first game that Messi has appeared in for Miami where he didn't score a goal but it still shows how much he has been able to influence the side.

Every free kick that Miami gets is essentially a free play due to Messi's deliveries from dead-ball situations and the goal for Campana is no different. All that the forward needs to do is get in the right position and Campana does just that. Just look at this service from Messi.

Messi's second ball for Campana was even better as it's clear that they've gotten some time practicing together despite all the travel that the team has been doing with Leagues Cup duties prior to this. After receiving the ball deep, Messi held the ball up for Campana to check his run perfectly and glide into a spot to be on the end of a perfect ball to force extra time. Here's his out-of-this-world assist:

Even when Messi isn't scoring for the Herons, he's able to impact the game like this. Here are a few numbers from his time with the club as he continues to dominate:

13 -- Goal contributions in all competitions

After scoring 10 goals and assisting one more in Leagues Cup play, Messi has seen his scoring streak come to an end at seven games but he won't mind as his two assists and a Miami victory are what matters. Messi was able to create five chances during the match despite Cincinnati doing a good job in stopping him from being able to shoot much in the game.

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3 -- Penalty shootout wins for the Herons since Messi's arrival

This team has been unbeatable in penalties with Drake Callender even making a penalty in the Leagues Cup final to go along with his stellar saves in net. Cremaschi has had ice in his veins, shooting fifth twice and burying his takes with ease and no matter the opposition, they'll be ready to sink a penalty against them. Before arriving at Inter Miami, Messi had never won a penalty shootout at club level as a pro. Now he's 3-0 for his new club. 

2 -- Cup finals that Miami will have appeared in with Messi this summer

Miami with Messi have now accomplished more than their entire three-year history in Major League Soccer. Already winning their first trophy in history, the club now has a chance at two trophies this season while also having a chance to make MLS Playoffs to compete for a treble. They've also already qualified for Concacaf Champions Cup next season to show that they are among the best teams in the region despite being at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

14 -- Points that Miami are behind in playoff race

While Miami have had a lot of success, they still haven't played an official league game since July 15 as their gap to reach ninth place grows. Miami does have two to three games in hand on most of the conference but it won't be an easy road for them to chase a treble this season. But with Messi in the squad, they've already proved that anything is possible so why can't they do the impossible here too?

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Inter Miami are in the U.S. Open Cup Final!

What a wild ending as Inter Miami came back from down two goals and then withstood Cincinnati before winning the match on a penalty shootout at the death. Now, Miami's dreams of a treble will continue after already winning Leagues Cup although the road to make MLS Cup Playoffs will be a long one.

August 24, 2023, 2:22 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 10:22 pm EDT
 
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Cremaschi wins yet another penalty shootout for Miami!!! 

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅✅X

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:59 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:59 pm EDT
 
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Callender denies Hagglund!

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅✅X

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:58 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:58 pm EDT
 
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Martinez freezes Kann and we're still going strong

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:58 AM
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Miazga scores and we're rolling like clockwork

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:57 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:57 pm EDT
 
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Ruiz stares down Kann then buries his kick

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:56 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:56 pm EDT
 
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Santos keeps an excellent run of penalties going

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:55 AM
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Farias marks his debut with an excellent penalty take

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:55 AM
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Arias sends Callender the wrong way

FC Cincinnati: ✅ ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:54 AM
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Messi chips his take and levels it

FC Cincinnati: ✅

Inter Miami: ✅

August 24, 2023, 1:53 AM
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Kubo buries his take with confidence

FC Cincinnati: ✅

Inter Miami:

August 24, 2023, 1:52 AM
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Onto penalties

It's the second shootout for both teams in Open Cup play but with a little more on the line as a trip to the final is on the line. Miami has already won two shootouts with Messi, can they make it a third?

August 24, 2023, 1:48 AM
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Kubo's equalizer has been coming! FC Cincinnati 3, Inter Miami 3

Since coming into the match Kubo has been pushing the pace and he finally gets a goal to show for it. Drake Callender got a hand to it but the shot was too strong to stop. Less than six minutes remain for a team to get a goal avoiding penalties. 

August 24, 2023, 1:41 AM
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12 minutes remain

Again it's Miami just trying to hold Cininanati off. The Herons are playing like a team that played three games in eight days as the extra time periods are getting to them but they've been able to maintain just enough composure while Cincy are dominating possession. 

August 24, 2023, 1:36 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:36 pm EDT
 
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Off the post!

Cincinnati has been left for dead but they're still creating chances and are just an inch away form an equalizer. Miami needs to tighten up their defense as Cincy wants a penalty for a handball. It won't be given but this is getting heated.

August 24, 2023, 1:27 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:27 pm EDT
 
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There goes Joesef Martinez!!!! FC Cincinnati 2, Inter Miami 3

After making subs to hold on to a lead, Cincinnati lacked a cutting edge and Miami struck. Benjamin Cremaschi brings his latest contribution to the team by threading the ball for Martinez and in just over 20 minutes, the Herons have scored three goals to now enter pole position to make the U.S. Open Cup Final.

August 24, 2023, 1:17 AM
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We have a late equalizer!!!! FC Cincinnati 2, Inter Miami 2

Cincinnati didn't waste enough time and Campana has his second goal from a Messi assist and the match is level. Campana held his run perfectly to score and this could be heading to extra time. Unlike Leagues Cup which went straight to penalties ,U.S. Open Cup play will see a more traditional two 15-minute periods of extra time. If things are still level at that point, we'll have a penalty shootout.

August 24, 2023, 1:06 AM
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Eight minutes of stoppage time to go

Cincinnati has one foot in the final as they push for a third goal! Drake Callender will pulled into another big save as counters have given the Herons fits all night.  

August 24, 2023, 1:01 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 9:01 pm EDT
 
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What an ending incoming

Miami are still off balance but Cincinnati just can't get a third goal to put things out of sight. The Herons seem tired as regulation is coming to a close but there's still nine minutes to overturn the match. 

August 24, 2023, 12:50 AM
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Another goal waved off?

Cincy has the ball in the back of the net again but it's called out due to a handball. This will be reviewed by VAR but it's another let off for Miami. 

August 24, 2023, 12:40 AM
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FC Cincinnati 2, Inter Miami 1

It's a lifeline for Miami as Farias drew a free kick and Messi wasted no time finding Campana for a headed finish in the box. Now only down one goal with 15 mintues remaining in the match there is plenty of time for Inter Miami to force extra time or even win the match.

August 24, 2023, 12:38 AM
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Yedlin is withdrawn and Facundo Farias makes his debut!

A more attacking presence will enter as Robert Taylor and Ruiz enter the match Farias will enter and Kamal Miller also leaves the match pointing to a change of system in the 59th minute of play.

August 24, 2023, 12:27 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 8:27 pm EDT
 
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FC Cincinnati 2, Inter Miami 0

That's two for Cincy as Vazquez hit's quite a strike on the counter. Miami's back three was helpless as Cincinnati countered with excellence. It has been a disjointed 53 minutes for the Herons and now they'll need to complete their biggest comeback in the Messi era if they are to get a result in this match.

August 24, 2023, 12:22 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 8:22 pm EDT
 
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No changes for Miami

Despite the first half issues, Tata Martino will send out the same team to begin the second half of play. Cincinnati will like that as they look to book a spot in a cup final for the first time in club history. 

August 24, 2023, 12:14 AM
Aug. 23, 2023, 8:14 pm EDT
 
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Mota with a shot from distance

Miami have struggled to create chances as we're now in stoppage time during the first half. Miami will need to adjust at halftime but when trying an entirely new system sees the team at worst going into he half down 1-0, Tata Martino won't be too disappointed as they can easily get back into the match.

August 23, 2023, 11:54 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:54 pm EDT
 
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Kryvtsov undergoes treatment 

After going down with a knock in the 36th minute, he'll try to continue as Miami's subs begin to warm up. Just called up to the Ukranie national team for their upcoming matches, he'll try to continue in the match but it's something to watch for the center back leading into the half.

August 23, 2023, 11:43 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:43 pm EDT
 
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Acosta can't be contained

Already having a goal to his name, Lucho Acosta has also been everywhere defensively for FC Cincinnati keeping Miami off balance. The back three was supposed to help contain him and so far that hasn't been the case so how can Tata Martino not only contain Acosta but also look to get Lionel Messi more involved in the buildup?

August 23, 2023, 11:37 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:37 pm EDT
 
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Saved by the flag

Only seconds later, Cincinnati had the ball in the back of the net yet again but were flagged for offside. Now behind, Inter Miami are raising the pressure with Gomez also putting a shot on target.

August 23, 2023, 11:27 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:27 pm EDT
 
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FC Cincinnati 1, Inter Miami 0

The home side takes the lead! It didn't look like Acosta's shot was going to go through but it's the end of quite a team goal as Cincinnati not only puts the fist shot on target of the match but they've also scored the first goal only 18 minutes into the match.

August 23, 2023, 11:25 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:25 pm EDT
 
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Balance

Miami's midfield isn't fully in the game yet but the back three has added balance into the side. Kamal Miller is a defender who likes to go off on marauding runs on his own but with Aviles next to him, it's not as much of an issue as when he's in a back four. The defensive improvements are showing early for the Herons but Cincinnati's defense also looks solid in the early going too.

August 23, 2023, 11:14 PM
Aug. 23, 2023, 7:14 pm EDT
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