Fresh off their inaugural Leagues Cup triumph on Saturday night, Inter Miami CF secured a spot in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final with a thrilling 3-3 draw against FC Cincinnati, followed by a 5-4 victory in penalty kicks.
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The match took place in front of a sold-out crowd of 25,513 at TQL Stadium on Wednesday night.
Facing a 2-0 deficit after the 60th minute, Lionel Messi, the reigning World Cup champion, played a pivotal role by assisting Leonardo Campana twice, leading to two crucial goals that forced the game into extra time. In the 93rd minute, 2019 Open Cup champion Josef Martínez scored to put Inter Miami ahead 3-2. However, FC Cincinnati’s Yuya Kubo managed to score a 114th-minute equalizer, sending the match to a penalty shootout.
In the penalty shootout, Inter Miami’s goalkeeper Drake Callender made a decisive save during the fifth round from Cincinnati native Nick Hagglund. Benjamin Cremaschi then converted the winning penalty, sending Inter Miami to its first U.S. Open Cup Final and marking their second championship match of 2023.
Inter Miami will now await the winner of the second semifinal between Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake, with the Open Cup Final scheduled for September 27. The team aims to secure its second trophy of the year.
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Despite scorching temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, both teams displayed determination in the opening 15 minutes, showcasing periods of possession and attacking play. FC Cincinnati’s Lucho Acosta scored the game’s first goal in the 18th minute, driven by a brilliant individual effort.
Inter Miami responded with an attempt from Messi to set up Diego Gómez, but FC Cincinnati’s goalkeeper Alec Kann made a remarkable reaction save to deny the Paraguayan attacker.
In the first half’s stoppage time, Inter Miami had two more opportunities. Jean Mota’s long-range effort veered wide of the target, followed by Gómez’s header that missed the goal.
FC Cincinnati extended their lead to 2-0 early in the second half through Brandon Vazquez. Inter Miami fought back, with Messi delivering a precise free-kick for Leonardo Campana to score, cutting the deficit in the 68th minute.
The Messi-Campana partnership nearly yielded another equalizer in the 83rd minute, but Campana’s effort sailed over the bar. As Inter Miami pressed for the equalizing goal, FC Cincinnati had a chance to secure victory in stoppage time, but Callender’s save sent the match to penalties.