You might have heard, the Greatest Of All Time is coming to Major League Soccer. Lionel Messi made the announcement himself, informing the world that he will be joining Inter Miami. What he failed to mention last month though was exactly when he would arrive. The mere thought of Messi debuting in Washington, D.C. was enough to sellout the venue, as more than 19,000 fans packed into Audi Field hoping the playmaker would make a surprise debut now that the summer transfer window is officially open.
While Messi did not make a cameo, those in attendance were treated to an entertaining matchup — as DC United and Inter Miami played to a riveting 2-2 draw.
The first half was largely forgettable, as neither team created much in the way of a sustained attack. The most exciting moment of the first 45 minutes featured United defender Andy Najar slotting home an apparent first half goal … only for the match officials to nullify the play because striker Christian Benteke was deemed offside.
Midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi scored in the 59th minute to give Miami a lead on the road for the first time since April 29 against Columbus, their lone away win this season. United forward Taxi Fountas was relieved to tie things up just six minutes laster with his sixth goal of the season, after failing to convert several quality chances earlier in the match.
Miami regained the lead three minutes later on a Noah Allen free kick that managed to allude the swarm of players camped out in front of the net. Fortunately for United, forward Nigel Robertha returned from a three-month injury absence and recorded his first goal of the year on his first touch of the game in the 77th minute. A match that was sluggish to start was suddenly captivating on both sides of the field.
Benteke had one last point-blank chance to secure victory in the final stages of the match, but his wayward header was off the mark forcing the black and red to settle for a draw against a completely beatable opponent. How beatable? Miami is now winless in their last 10 matches. They hold the worst record in the Eastern Conference and have the second fewest points in the entire league.
Re-enforcements cannot get here soon enough for the men in pink. When Messi does finally arrive, he’ll bring with him several prominent sidekicks in former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as ex-Barcelona and Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
Locally, this game marked the final home appearance for midfielder Lewis O’Brien, whose loan from Nottingham Forest expires July 16. Despite weeks of negotiations, United was unable to extend the deal with the Premier League club. O’Brien has excelled at ball-carrying, distribution and decision-making during his time in town. United will need to sign at least one new player during the summer window to fill the void created by the loss.