What we learned as Messi, Suarez scored twice each in Inter Miami 5-0 rout of Orlando

All the concern about Lionel Messi’s fatigue, the second-guessing about the 24,000-mile global preseason tour, the skeptics questioning Luis Suarez and his 37-year-old aching knees, all of it melted away Saturday as Inter Miami rolled over rival Orlando City 5-0 for the most lopsided win in club history.

Suarez quieted the critics with a pair of clinical finishes for two goals in the first 11 minutes and added two assists, one to Robert Taylor in the first half and another to his good friend Messi, who headed home the fifth goal, putting an exclamation point on the night.

Messi also scored in the 57th minute, an awkward body shot that trickled in from close range after a goal-line clearance off the crossbar.

Suarez, the Uruguayan forward and latest of Messi’s former Barcelona teammates to join Inter Miami, had scored 381 goals for his clubs over 19 seasons, but had not scored yet for Miami. On Saturday, with the help of two perfectly placed Julian Gressel assists, Suarez did what Suarez does.

“I am very happy for him that he was able to convert his chances,” Messi said of Suarez in a post-game interview with Apple TV. “We were still calm because we know who Luis is and what he is capable of. He is like that. When you least expect it, he can define a game, like he did for us with goals and assists.”

As for the result, Messi called it “the complete game.” He added: “We knew we had to come out with intensity because Orlando comes out with a lot of fight, they wait for you and then come out fast on the counterattack. We were lucky to get the first goal and that changes the entire game.

“We are doing well, enjoying ourselves, growing. Today was an important game to win, to continue on that path of growth and this has to make us very strong for everything that is to come. We are aware of the pressure on us, we know team we put together and we prepare to try to fight for the MLS. We know that it is a long road, that this is just beginning.”

Coach Tata Martino called it the best game the team has played since he took over last summer, especially against a rival he respects as much as he does Orlando.

With the win, Miami remained atop the MLS Eastern Conference with two wins and a tie and an 8-1 goal differential.

Orlando’s mascot is the lion, but it was the home crowd of 21,352 pink and black-clad fans, most of them in Lionel Messi No. 10 jerseys, doing all the roaring on Saturday.

Hours before kickoff, it was clear from the vibe around the stadium that this was going to be a spicy match. One young Inter Miami fan carried a poster that read: “Our goat: (photo of Messi). Your goat: (photo of Mickey Mouse).”

Here are some things we learned from Miami’s thrashing of Orlando.


Yes, he is 37. Yes, he has been battling knee inflammation for quite some time. But if the ball is delivered to him in the right place, at the right time, El Pistolero (The Gunslinger) still has a lethal shot.

He scored two goals in the span of seven minutes Saturday, and both were textbook finishes that ejected fans from their seats.

Suarez also unselfishly set up Taylor for his goal and found Messi’s forehead for the fifth goal later in the game.

“From an individual standpoint, I am happy to be able to help the team,” Suarez said. “A striker and professional soccer player has to be accustomed to living with daily criticism. People in soccer do not have memory so in that sense I am very used to it. I have been playing professional soccer for almost 20 years, so I do not worry about things that people might be saying.”

Martino was correct when he said after the game that the criticism of Suarez was premature.

“I said last week that to analyze a player when the team did not play a good game is unjust,” Martino said. “The reality is the team played very well and Luis shined in all his splendor, not only as a goal-scorer but also with his assists.”

Gressel said of Suarez: “He left it all on the field without talking, and it is obviously very nice and it gives the whole group a good feeling when he is doing that type of stuff. Two goals, two assists, and an unbelievable assist as well where he is on a hat-trick in the first half and (instead) squares the ball to Robert (Taylor). I think that shows who he is, that shows what he does for this team, and how important he is. To have a guy like him on the team with that individual quality, I think we saw it today. That is something that is certainly good to have moving forward.”


During the preseason world tour, Miami’s defense looked shaky at times, and there were concerns that goalkeeper Drake Callender was lacking a strong supporting staff in the back line. Martino experimented with five men in the back, but went to four, which seems to be working much better.

So far, Inter Miami has recorded two shutouts in three games and allowed just one goal. Callender, who had to make big saves to keep Miami alive against the L.A. Galaxy, had a relatively easy night against Orlando.

The back line of DeAndre Yedlin, Tomas Aviles, Nico Freire and Jordi Alba absorbed Orlando’s pressure well all night. Freire, the Argentine starting his first game for Miami in place of Ukrainian Sergiy Kryvtsov, partnered well with Aviles and looked at ease.


Gressel came to Inter Miami from the MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew in January with a reputation as a versatile midfielder/winger who knew the league and would provide valuable leadership on and off the field.

It took him a few games to get adjusted to his new teammates. Against Orlando everything clicked. Gressel was instrumental in both of Suarez’s goals, and wore a huge smile when he was subbed off in the 67th minute.

“It was nice to kind of get myself going and on the stat sheet as well and find a way to contribute,” Gressel said. “I think the more multidimensional that we are and the more guys can contribute in terms of goals — Robert scored again today — and assists, the more headaches we cause for the other teams. That is what I am trying to do, that is why I am here as well: to not just be a bystander but also contribute. I think today it worked really well.”


Despite the strong start and big win Saturday, Inter Miami faces a huge challenge on the road against Nashville SC Thursday in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. They will face a defensive-minded Nashville, which gave Miami fits when they played last season. Since Messi’s arrival, they tied Nashville 0-0 and beat them in a dramatic penalty kick shootout in the Leagues Cup final.

“It was important that we start the season off well because then the league will pause and other tournaments will begin,” Messi said. “It’s good to arrive with some breathing room and get the most points possible before tournaments like Copa America, Leagues Cup and everything yet to come.”

Writer Franco Panizo contributed to this report.