Campana's Brilliance: Inter Miami Soars Past Sporting KC without Messi
Inter Miami forward Robbie Robinson, on the right, goes down as he and Sporting Kansas City defender Tim Leibold fight for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Inter Miami beat Sporting Kansas City 3-2 on Saturday night, even though Lionel Messi wasn’t there because he was playing in two World Cup qualifiers for current winner Argentina. Two goals from Leonardo Campana helped Inter Miami win, since Messi was playing in those qualifiers.

Alan Pulido, a forward for Sporting Kansas City, celebrates with fans after getting a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Inter Miami on September 9, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Alan Pulido, a forward for Sporting Kansas City, celebrates with fans after getting a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Inter Miami on September 9, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Facundo Farias scored the third goal for Miami, which is still 14th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-14-4.

The game was a test for Miami, which is 11-0-1 in cup and MLS games since Messi joined the club. He has already helped the team score 11 goals and set up 8 more. Before Messi’s first game on July 21, Miami had gone 11 games without a win.

“Like I said on Friday,” Campana said in Spanish, “Leo’s absence would be felt.” “But he has made the players so sure of themselves. We now believe in ourselves and know what we can do. Very pleased with the win and the three points.”

Messi scored the game-winning goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday. On Tuesday, he will play for his country again, this time against Bolivia.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be back in Miami for next Saturday’s league game against Atlanta FC.

“We all know that when he is here, we are all better,” said Miami coach Tata Martino in Spanish. “We’re good enough to win any kind of game. But for a group of players who work hard and are friends with the best player in the world, knowing they can win when he doesn’t play is a boost.

Inter Miami defender Franco Negri, in the middle, fights for the ball with Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas, on the left, and forward Daniel Salloi, on the right, during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sept. 9, 2023.
Inter Miami defender Franco Negri, in the middle, fights for the ball with Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas, on the left, and forward Daniel Salloi, on the right, during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sept. 9, 2023.

People in the stands could tell that Messi wasn’t there. Even though the crowd at DRV PNK Stadium sang and cheered loudly after every goal, you could see that some places were empty.

Seven other Miami players, including Messi, were called up by their national teams for trials and had to miss the game.

In the 45th minute, Campana’s second goal broke a 1-1 tie. DeAndre Yedlin dribbled deep into the right wing area and crossed the ball to a diving Campana, who headed it past Sporting KC goalie Tim Melia.

Felipe Gutierrez, a defender for Sporting Kansas City, and Robbie Robinson, a forward for Inter Miami, fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.
Felipe Gutierrez, a defender for Sporting Kansas City, and Robbie Robinson, a forward for Inter Miami, fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.

Campana said, “I feel like I’ve grown from less to more over the course of the season.” “At first, things weren’t going well, but we kept working hard and are now on the right track.”

Farias scored in the 60th minute to make it 3-1. Sergio Busquets’s free kick from the middle of the field found an open Farias. Farias dribbled into the penalty area without being stopped and shot with his right foot to beat Melia from 15 yards out.

In the 78th minute, Alan Pulido got Sporting KC (8-12-8) within one goal.

Erik Thommy, a midfielder for Sporting Kansas City, and Facundo Farias, a midfielder for Inter Miami, fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.
Erik Thommy, a midfielder for Sporting Kansas City, and Facundo Farias, a midfielder for Inter Miami, fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.

“This win solidifies us, and we know we have a good team,” Martino said. “We can keep doing as well as we did tonight.”

Facundo Farias, a player for Inter Miami, goes down as Sporting Kansas City defender Dany Rosero steals the ball, during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.
Facundo Farias, a player for Inter Miami, goes down as Sporting Kansas City defender Dany Rosero steals the ball, during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 9, 2023.

When Dániel Sallói scored nine minutes into the game, Miami was already behind. Drake Callender blocked Felipe Gutierrez’s shot from 25 yards away, but he couldn’t get rid of it. Salloi found the loose ball on the edge of the 6-yard box and scored with a right-footed shot inside the right post.

In the 25th minute, Campana’s penalty kick made it 1-1. Campana was fouled by Melia when he hit him in the neck area near the 6-yard box. With a shot to Melia’s left, Campana beat him.

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