The “Messi mania” spread in New York on Saturday when Lionel Messi made his regular-season debut in Major League Soccer (MLS) for Inter Miami away against the New York Red Bulls.
However, the fans in attendance had to wait until the 60th minute for the Argentinian superstar to come on as a substitute as his side were already 1-0 up.
The crowd at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey gave the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner a rousing ovation as they took the field and in the 89th minute they got exactly what they wanted – a goal for Messi .
Surrounded by four defenders, Messi controlled the ball in the penalty area, passed it to Benjamin Cremaschi, who then simply pushed it back to Messi.
As the keeper was jerked from his position, Messi smashed the ball into the net from close range, scoring his first official MLS goal and securing Inter Miami a 2-0 win.
Ticket seller VividSeats told CNN ahead of the game that the game was priced at an average of $483 this weekend. That’s more than the usual $46 it costs to secure an MLS team ticket.
Even fans who weren’t at the stadium to experience the ‘Messi magic’ in person were able to get a little taste of it. A packed crowd gathered in Times Square to watch the game on the giant screens and cheer when Messi scored.
“Where dreams are made from,” Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said afterwards on Instagram, along with pictures of Messi, the rest of the team and fans wearing Messi shirts. “Thank you NYC. Great away win.”
The win moved Inter Miami from bottom in the Eastern Conference to 14th, overtaking Toronto FC.
Messi and Inter Miami’s next game is scheduled for Wednesday against Nashville SC at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.