Inter Miami began their extended, globetrotting preseason tour by facing El Salvador’s national team in San Salvador on Friday night. The match would mark Luis Suarez’s debut for Inter Miami, but it was clear who everyone in El Salvador was most excited to see in person: Lionel Messi.
Fans tracked Inter Miami’s plane as it made its way to El Salvador…
And when Miami’s bus first arrived at their hotel, waiting supporters rushed toward it chanting Messi’s name.
— Noticias Reales (@NoticiasRSV) January 19, 2024
El Salvador president Nayib Bukele visited with the team for a photo-op ahead of next month’s national elections.
Su equipo, el Inter de Miami, jugará un partido amistoso con la selección de El Salvador, en el Estadio Cuscatlán en la ciudad de San Salvador. pic.twitter.com/hv2JqvsDFC
— La Derecha Diario (@laderechadiario) January 20, 2024
The day before the match, local vendors sold Inter Miami x El Salvador Messi shirts alongside a sea of Miami pink tops (of questionable authenticity).
Many of those pink shirts were worn by fans attending the game, making the crowd look more like one back in Fort Lauderdale.
Messi arrives at the stadium under heavy security. 🦩❤️🔥🦩
— FCB Albiceleste (@FCBAlbiceleste) January 19, 2024
One young fan in attendance went viral when a video of her mother surprising her with a ticket to the match hit social media. The club tracked her down and hooked her up with a Messi autographed shirt.
Lo que vimos.. lo que hicimos
Cumpliendo sueños 💫 pic.twitter.com/Vm0FpKIN46
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) January 19, 2024
Miami trotted out its star attractions to begin the match, utilizing a 3-5-2 formation that could appear again once the MLS regular season gets going.
I still think Inter Miami’s preferred formation will be 4-3-3 but I think we’ll see a ton of this 3-5-2 this year.
Alba and Gressel constantly getting forward, two CMs next to Busquets to carry the dirty work/ground covering, Messi gets a free role next to Suarez/Campana pic.twitter.com/sOijJKZBl5
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) January 20, 2024
Although it’s been months since Miami’s last match and years since Suarez last played with former Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Messi, the four showed flashes of brilliance in the first half.
Alba to Suarez to Busquets to Messi to Busquets to Messi.
They’re just getting warmed up. 👀
📺 https://t.co/weT5JfeSqf pic.twitter.com/p6wv1zSJ5b
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) January 20, 2024
Just before halftime, with the score still 0-0, Messi was awarded a free kick in ideal position, but he couldn’t come up with the goal. In fact, no one could, as the match went on to end scoreless. Messi, Alba, Busquets and Suarez exited the match at halftime, making it through their shift without injury.
Messi looks really fit. Strong fish – chicken – water diet vibe
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) January 20, 2024
On the whole, the match itself was about what you would expect from a preseason opener, but it still provided the first taste of a new season of Messi-mania.
(Top photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
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