FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lionel Messi continues to add goals in bunches while still adapting to a new team.
Messi scored in his third straight game and had his second consecutive multi-goal performance for Inter Miami in a 3-1 victory over Orlando City on Wednesday night.
“Something I said early on when we started, with him the most difficult things have become easier,” Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said. “But we are talking about a player that at the highest level of competition scores 40 goals a season.”
The Leagues Cup Round of 32 match was delayed 95 minutes because of thunderstorms.
Messi scored seven minutes into the match then added a second strike in the 72nd minute. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has five goals in three games since his highly-anticipated MLS debut July 21.
As he eluded the Orlando City backline, Messi stopped a pass from Robert Taylor on his chest, dribbled a couple of yards near the edge of the 6-yard box and converted a shot that landed under the crossbar.
The goal gave Inter Miami a 1-0 lead before Orlando tied it 11 minutes later.
Messi struck again when he received a centering pass from Josef Martinez and flicked a right-footed shot inside the left post and put Inter Miami ahead 3-1.
“It is not illogical to think that he has scored five goals in three matches,” Martino said. “Sometimes I feel we overdo it coming up with greater adjectives. It just comes down to talking about the best player in the world.”
Martino also was quick to indicate how the second strike Wednesday came from Messi’s right foot instead of the celebrated left foot that has scored from various angles in different situations.
“He’s been doing the same for 17-18 years,” Martino said. “He said he was coming here to compete and win. He is fulfilling what he said.”
The win advances Inter Miami to the tournament Round of 16 against Dallas FC.
Inter Miami also had a scare early in the second half when Orlando’s Mauricio Pereyra collided with Messi. Messi remained on the ground, favouring his jaw for a couple of minutes.
Messi received his first yellow card with Inter Miami after he was cited for a hard foul in the 21st minute.
Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba made his Inter Miami debut when he entered the match in the 64th minute.
The game was scheduled to start at 8 pm, but didn’t begin on time because of the storms.
Messi and his Inter Miami teammates appeared on the DRV PNK Stadium field for warm-ups 45 minutes before the scheduled start. The heavy rains began approximately 20 minutes later.
After stadium crew drained water puddles around mid-field, Messi and his teammates re-appeared for a second round of pre-game warm-ups.
Messi has not dealt with inclement weather in his first two Leagues Cup matches since joining the MLS club. He scored the game-winning goal against Cruz Azul and added two goals in a victory over Atlanta United.