Meet the New Inter Miami, Not the Same As The Old Inter Miami

Inter Miami put on a clinic in its second match of the Leagues Cup against Atlanta United. And it wasn’t just you-know-who providing the sparks.
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi put on a masterclass -- scoring two goals -- in the Herons' 4-0 shellacking of Atlanta United.
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi put on a masterclass -- scoring two goals -- in the Herons' 4-0 shellacking of Atlanta United. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

After Inter Miami’s 2-1 shaky win over Cruz Azul last week, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Herons in their second match with Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets in the lineup.

Of course, I suggested it was perhaps too early to see either player start and play an entire match, but it’s a good thing I’m not responsible for the lineup.

Nonetheless, the Herons put on a show against Atlanta United in a 4-0 thrashing to claim the group and advance to the knockout stages of the Leagues Cup.

Here are some insights.

Welcome to the Match, Robert Taylor

I’m sure you expected me to lead off with quips about Messi and his masterclass along with the pairing with Busquets, but no (I’ll get to it in a sec).

I wanted to kick things off with a bit about Robert Taylor.

The Finland national racked up a pair of goals — thanks in part to Messi — that was, in a word: brilliant.

While the buildup to this goal in the 53rd minute was outstanding — with Busquets finding Messi streaking in the middle of the pitch — watching Taylor was sheer joy.

Once Busquets makes the touch to Messi, Taylor is off to the races on the left where Messi finds him inside the area.

The shot was pure filth … slotting it right past Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

If soccer doesn’t work for Taylor, Finland should open up a spot on their 100-meter relay team as he covered that distance with intense speed.

And his first goal of the match in the first half was just as filthy.

Benjamin Cremaschi — who failed to impress against Cruz Azul — played smarter against Atlanta United.

In the middle of the area, he smartly spotted Taylor on the left and the finish was … chef’s kiss.

It was a coming-out party for Taylor as he notched only two goals in regular season play, but found the back of the net twice in one match against Atlanta.

More Brilliance From Drake Callender

Inter Miami’s netminder kept the Herons in the match against Cruz Azul last week — stopping everything put in front of him.

While Atlanta United’s offense was sluggish, at best, Drake Callender repeated his brilliance.

Including a massive stop on Thiago Almada’s penalty kick in the second half.

He only had to stop three shots from the Five Stripes and their aim was more erratic than Cruz Azul’s last week.

Nonetheless, absolute mastery from Callender.

Sergio Busquets to Lionel Messi

At some point in time, teams are going to realize that the real threat to Inter Miami’s attack isn’t necessarily Lionel Messi… but midfielder Sergio Busquets.

It’s Busquets’ keen eye that finds Messi in space which allows him to maneuver at will.

Atlanta couldn’t figure that out… at all.

Busquets finds Messi right down the middle… and onside… and Messi takes care of the rest, even getting his own assist with help from the goalpost eight minutes into the match.

If that wasn’t enough, 14 minutes later, Messi, Taylor and even Josef Martinez get into the action. Messi — against running up the middle — found Taylor on the left who one-touched back to Messi in front of a Martinez feint to put the Herons up 2-0.

Not the Inter Miami of Old

On both sides of the pitch, Inter Miami looked like a playoff contender and not like a team languishing at the bottom of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.

Clean spacing, crisp passing and solid marking on defense kept Atlanta United wondering just what in the world was going on.

This has not been the Inter Miami we’ve seen in the first half of the season.

As I said about the Busquets-Messi combination, teams are going to figure it out… or at least they should… but, for now, we can certainly enjoy what we’re getting from this new Inter Miami squad.