Messi held scoreless but Inter Miami extends unbeaten string with win over DC United

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi, centre,, tries to control the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match against D.C. United, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lionel Messi was kept off the scoresheet for the second consecutive match, but Inter Miami extended its unbeaten string with a 1-0 win over DC United on Saturday night.

Leo Campana scored four minutes into second half stoppage time as Miami, 6-0-3 since a 4-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on March 23, avoided a second consecutive scoreless draw. Campana, who entered the match a minute earlier, received a pass from Sergio Busquets on the right wing and converted on a shot that landed inside the left post.

Miami had used its allotted five substitutions but was allowed an additional replacement when United’s Martin Rodriguez left the match because of a concussion. Second half stoppage lasted 10 minutes.

“I know that lately I have not been getting too many minutes but it is my responsibility to be ready,” Campana said in Spanish. “Whether it’s 30, 20, 15 or one minute you have to be ready. Thankfully, we had the time to score the goal.”

For a team known for its high-powered offense that has produced a league-high 36 goals, Miami secured its second straight shutout.

“We were not as fluid offensively and they formed a solid defense,” Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “Defensively we worked very well.”

The win improved Eastern Conference-leading Miami to 9-2-4 with 31 points. DC United dropped to 4-5-5 and 17 points.

Messi returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s match at Orlando because of knee soreness.

The Argentine star forward had at least one goal and assist in five consecutive matches until a 3-2 win at Montreal on May 11. Messi began Saturday with a league-leading 12 assists.

Tightly marked for most of the match, Messi found a slight opening in the 71st minute, but his shot from 22 yards sailed high above the crossbar.

Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender preserved the shutout when he stopped a shot from United’s Jacob Murrell in the 86th minute and then denied Cristian Dájome’s inside the box four minutes later.

“He is a goalkeeper that saves games like he did tonight,” Martino said.

The start of the match was delayed 25 minutes after thunderstorms hit Chase Stadium before the clubs’ pregame drills. The rain intensified again shortly after kickoff and then subsided in the 30th minute.

Messi had two free kicks blocked by a wall of United defenders in the 21st and 39th minutes.

Both clubs continue their league schedule next Saturday, when Inter Miami visits Vancouver and United hosts Chicago.

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