Messi has quiet return, but Inter Miami wins late vs. D.C. United

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As Lionel Messi soars up the Inter Miami record books, it might be only natural for Leo Campana to look over his shoulder.

Campana has one more night to rest easy, knowing he’s still Inter Miami’s active leading scorer.

Campana came off the bench and quickly scored a goal within seconds of running onto the field in the 93rd minute, leading Inter Miami to a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Saturday night at Chase Stadium.

It’s not a populated list since Inter Miami began play in 2020. Campana has 26 goals in his career with Inter Miami since 2022, and remains in second place on the franchise’s all-time list.

Messi is third on the list with 23 goals since last July, while retired Argentine standout Gonzalo Higuaín is the franchise leader with 29 goals.

Messi returned from a blow to his left leg last Saturday vs. D.C. United, and played the distance in a relatively quiet night. He missed three free kick opportunities, despite appearing healthy and dribbling between defenders to excite fans in attendance.  

If Campana’s quick score weren’t quirky enough, just consider his reduced role with the club and the substitution situation that allowed him to enter the match.  

D.C. United’s Martin Rodriguez was hit in the face by a ball kicked from Inter Miami’s Matias Rojas, and appeared to stumble afterward. The main referee signaled for a stoppage in play with concern Rodriguez may have been concussed.

Rodriguez was evaluated and taken off the field, able to walk on his own power in the 91st minute, and allowed both teams to make a concussion substitution in the match.

Since Luis Suárez arrived and shined brightly with an MLS-leading 11 goals scored, Campana has understandably been restricted to the bench.

So, you can understand Campana’s excitement when he reached to take his jersey off and celebrate shirtless after the score.

“No, actually it was a game where we didn’t think about it,” Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said of Campana. “There were only 7 minutes left, and those are the changes you make to see if, well, if this happens, what will happen? This happened today.”

Inter Miami remains in first place in the MLS Eastern Conference with the victory, and returns to action next Saturday in Vancouver — Messi’s second match in Canada in May.  

Leo Campana goal in extra time: Inter Miami 1, D.C. United 0

Leo Campana ran onto the field and immediately scored to give Inter Miami a 1-0 lead in the 94th minute.

Campana received a touch from Sergio Busquets, and found the back of the net. He immediately took his jersey off in celebration, likely minutes after he put his jersey on.

Messi lines up for another free kick to no avail: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

Messi’s free kick was punched away by the D.C. United goalie Alex Bono in the 84th minute.

We remain scoreless as the final minutes of the match approach.

Messi misses shot over crossbar: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

Messi’s best shot of the night, a left boot in rhythm and around 25 feet from the net, soared over the crossbar in the 71st minute.

It was Inter Miami’s best attempt on goal on the night as we head into the final 20 minutes.

Jared Stroud misses chip shot after corner kick: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

D.C. United’s best chance of the night was a chip shot by Jared Stroud, that was just wide left of the net, following a corner kick in the 52nd minute.

Inter Miami is lucky after the sequence, and their attention to the MLS co-leader in scoring Christian Benteke nearly cost them.

Messi’s misses second free kick: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

Messi lined up from about 27 feet from the net, and his second free kick of the game was kicked into the wall of United defenders.

Messi and the referee got into a conversation about Messi’s placement of the ball for the kick. But to no avail.

Luis Suárez, ever the instigator, was pushed from behind to set up the sequence for the second free kick.

Messi misses free kick: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

Messi lined up in the pouring rain for a free kick in the 22nd minute, but his kick was met by a wall of D.C. United defenders.

Luis Suárez was tripped, granting the free kick to Inter Miami.

Quiet start for Messi in first 15 minutes: Inter Miami 0, D.C. United 0

Messi had a few touches, but nothing in striking distance. D.C. United, like many opponents, have crowded the field defensively to make it difficult for Inter Miami.

Inter Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi had an early shot that hit the outside of the net after a sliding kick attempt. Sergio Busquets also had a stellar pass that was out of Luis Suárez’s range.

The rain has started to fall again in the 15th minute, and some fans have made a run for cover.

How to watch Inter Miami vs. D.C. United live stream

The match will be streamed via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Messi promoted a free month on MLS Season Pass on his Instagram story earlier Saturday. 

TICKETS: Experience Messi and Inter Miami in person at home against DC United

SHOP: Get the latest Messi and Inter Miami team gear from the MLS Store

Can Messi get back on track?

Messi hopes to get back on track after his eight-game streak with a goal and assist ended in Montreal. Messi ranks second in MLS with 10 goals and first with 12 assists for first-place Inter Miami.

Messi has four matches remaining in the next two weeks with Inter Miami before joining Argentina for Copa America next month.

Messi was not listed on the MLS injury report after practicing Friday, despite being injured after a CF Montreal player collided into him in a 3-2 win last Saturday and missing a scoreless draw against Orlando City on Wednesday as a precaution. 

Inter Miami vs. D.C. United prediction

Three of the top four MLS scoring leaders will play in this one. Inter Miami’s Luis Suárez and D.C. United’s Christian Benteke are tied with Real Salt Lake’s Cristian Arango with 11 goals to lead the league. 

Inter Miami 3, DC United 2: Messi, Suárez and Matias Rojas should lead the way for Inter Miami despite two goals from Benteke to take the league lead in scoring as consolidation. –Safid Deen, Lionel Messi reporter 

Inter Miami’s upcoming schedule 

Inter Miami will return to action after a week off, but have a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday slate before Copa America. 

∎May 25: Inter Miami at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET

∎May 29: Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ET

∎June 1: Inter Miami vs. St. Louis City, 7:30 p.m. ET

Argentina’s upcoming schedule 

Messi will join Argentina next month for two exhibitions before Copa America begins on June 20. Here are the next five Argentina matches. 

∎June 9: Argentina vs. Ecuador in Chicago

∎June 14: Argentina vs. Guatemala in Landover, Maryland.

Argentina’s Copa America group play schedule 

Argentina is in Group A with Canada, Chile and Peru for Copa America.

∎June 20: Argentina vs. Canada in Atlanta

∎June 25: Argentina vs. Chile in New Jersey

∎June 29: Argentina bs. Peru in Miami

This post appeared first on USA TODAY