Benja Cremaschi was a rising star at Inter Miami before Messi & Friends arrived to set Major League Soccer on its ear. But under the tutelage of new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and mentorship of his childhood idol, Lionel Messi, the cerebral Sergio Busquets and intense Jordi Alba, Cremaschi is proving hard to take out of the starting 11.
Cremaschi helped Weston Academy win the 2021 U16 MLS Next Cup, where he won the Golden Cup; he helped Inter Miami’s U17s win the Generation Adidas Cup and was selected to the MLS Next all-star team in 2022. The same year, he scored five goals and assisted on one for Inter Miami II in MLS Next Pro.
The Argentine American from Key Biscayne signed a three-year senior team contract in November and made his debut against Montreal in February. When injuries decimated La Rosa Negra’s midfield, he began to play meaningful minutes — 1,152 minutes in 18 Major League Soccer matches thus far, including 14 starts. (He also started two of four matches and played 171 minutes in U.S. Open Cup competition). He scored a goal and assisted on three before Leagues Cup play.
Cremaschi refocuses after Cruz Azul
Cremaschi stumbled in the first match of the mid-season tournament against Mexican side Cruz Azul. Benja was uncharacteristically unsure, out of position and inaccurate with his passes. Of course, the match against Los Cementeros was Cremaschi’s first in front of his newest teammates, Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets. He was understandably nervous, and his inconsistent performance made him the answer to a trivia question: “Who subbed out when Lionel Messi made his Inter Miami debut?”
It was Cremaschi’s worst showing as a pro. A lot of kids would wilt; Cremaschi blossomed.
He played with confidence and energy in the next two matches, starting beside his childhood idol against Atlanta United and Orlando City and collecting a pair of assists.
But it was a match he started on the bench that assured his place in Inter Miami history.
Confidence, character victorious in Dallas
On the road at FC Dallas, coach Tata Martino decided to start newcomer Diego Gomez. But, trailing 3-1 in the 64th minute, Cremaschi relieved Gomez; a minute later, he blasted a Jordi Alba pass into the top of the net. The teams exchanged own goals, Messi Messied an inches perfect free-kick into the top left corner (a close facsimile of his first goal in South Florida), and the match ended in a draw.
With a Leagues Cup quarterfinal berth on the line, the outcome would rely on penalty kicks. Paxton Pomykal missed Dallas’ second try; Miami’s penalty takers were perfect…Messi, Busquets, striker Leo Campana (the team’s second-leading scorer in 2022), and Kamal Miller (an MLS all-star center back - ?!) gave La Rosanegra a 4-3 lead with their fifth penalty taker stepping to the spot.
Cremaschi told Martino he wanted the ball. The uncertainty of three matches earlier was gone. He smashed the winning penalty into the net, keeping the Herons’ trophy hopes alive.
And bringing a bright smile to Messi’s face.
Cremaschi, not his idol, Messi, is Inter Miami’s future
And THAT makes me happy. Inter Miami won’t become a world-class side by buying the best players on the market; successful, maybe, but NOT great.
Cremaschi isn’t the only young talent awaiting his chance at Inter Miami. Players like Noah Allen and David Ruiz have shown promise both physically and mentally. How much better will they be with two-and-a-half seasons practicing, playing, eating and traveling with veterans with the quality of Messi, Busquets and Alba?
Inter Miami will become a world-class side if it resists the temptation to rely on its owners deep pockets and relies instead on developing players of quality and character. Buy skilled players who are leaders, teachers, mentors; develop players who are learners and workers, who are quality men as well as quality people.
Inter Miami has had great players, but they have been players who became great somewhere else. Benjamin Cremaschi could become the first great Inter Miami player.