Lionel Messi‘s incredible start for Inter Miami CF continued Wednesday night as he scored twice in a 3-1 Leagues Cup win over host Orlando City SC to help his team advance to the round of 16 in the inaugural competition.
Orlando got back in the game 10 minutes later with a goal from César Araujo in an increasingly chippy first half that saw Messi pick up a yellow card and Orlando’s Kyle Smith also being cautioned by the referee just before the break.
There was a confrontation between the World Cup champion and Araujo that extended past the whistle and into the tunnel, with Messi visibly agitated following the physical finish to the first half.
Josef Martínez drew a foul in the area from Orlando’s Antônio Carlos early in the second half and Messi deferred to his Miami teammate on the spot kick, allowing the former Atlanta United striker to do the honors and restore the home side’s lead.
Inter Miami had a scare early in the second half when Orlando’s Mauricio Pereyra collided with Messi. Messi remained on the ground, favoring his jaw for a couple of minutes before reaching his feet.
Miami coach Gerardo Martino brought on new arrival Jordi Alba in the 63rd minute to make his MLS debut, as the longtime Barcelona defender reunited with his former teammates Messi and Sergio Busquets in South Beach.
Shortly after, Messi scored his fifth goal since joining Miami, volleying home another close strike to seal the victory as Martinez provided the assist with a deft chip back across the top of the six-yard box.
The round of 32 game was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET, but was delayed 90 minutes due to severe thunderstorms in the area. Miami faces FC Dallas in the next round in Frisco, Texas, on Aug. 6, Messi’s first match on the road since signing with the team.
ESPN writer Ross Devonport contributed to this story.