Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake score, highlights, result as Lionel Messi stars in sloppy 2024 MLS season opener

The start of the 2024 Major League Soccer season was highly anticipated. Indeed, the campaign did officially begin on Wednesday night, and Inter Miami did escape with a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake, but it wasn’t exactly a glittering endorsement of MLS talent and quality.

Both sides were putrid in possession and even worse in front of goal, as both sides coughed the ball up repeatedly in bad areas, and the opponent failed to capitalize on the numerous chances.

Robert Taylor’s ugly first half goal, officially assisted by Lionel Messi and unofficially by a Zach MacMath howler, was the difference, and Messi generated the second as well as Diego Gomez finished it off. Cristian Arango and the RSL forward unit was unable to punish Inter Miami for its repeated defensive and possessional errors, and the 90 minutes were so blighted by errors that the most memorable highlight of the game was a mind-bending Messi move which saw him skip over an injured player on the dribble, only to have his eventual shot blocked.

With victory in the season’s first match, Inter Miami sit atop the overall MLS standings for the first time in club history. Inter Miami will take the three points and get out of dodge, but it wasn’t a promising sign of future success for Tata Martino’s aging side.

For RSL, the visitors were utterly horrific through the first 45, and while they improved after halftime, it remained a sloppy mess overall. Both sides will need to collect themselves quickly, as any more of these performances will doom them quickly across a congested MLS season.

The Sporting News followed the Inter Miami vs. Real Salt Lake match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happened.

2024 MLS PREDICTIONS: MLS Cup winner | Golden Boot | Inter Miami prediction | Messi goals in 2024

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake final score

  Score Goal scorers
Inter Miami 2 Taylor (39′),
D. Gomez (83′)
Real Salt Lake 0

Kickoff: 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT
Location: Chase Stadium (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Referee: Cristian Campo Hernandez

Starting lineups:

Inter Miami (4-3-3, right to left): 1. Callender (GK) — 2. Yedlin, 6. Aviles (Allen, 77′), 27. Kryvtsov, 18. Alba — 20. D. Gomez, 5. Busquets (Sunderland, 85′), 24. Gressel (Mota, 77′) — 10. Messi, 9. Suarez (Campana, 90′), 16. Taylor (D. Ruiz, 77′).

Real Salt Lake (4-5-1, right to left): 18. MacMath (GK) — 14. Eneli, 15. Glad, 4. Vera, 2. Brody — 11. C. Gomez (Julio, 66′), 6. Ojeda, 7. P. Ruiz, 13. Palacio (Barajas, 66′), 8. Luna (Calsikan, 73′) — 9. Arango (Hidalgo, 87′).

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake live updates, highlights, commentary

FULLTIME: Inter Miami 2-0 Real Salt Lake

It was an utterly putrid 90 minutes for both sides on and off the ball, but one side has Lionel Messi and the other side didn’t, and that’s the difference in this match as Inter Miami escape with three points.

Both clubs committed repeated errors in and out of possession, but RSL were powerless to take advantage, and Messi’s brilliance unlocked the RSL back line just enough times. You can be sure that this be far from the last time that Messi’s brightly shining star will be worth points in the table.

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake: Second Half

89th min: Chance, Inter Miami! Lionel Messi nearly generates one for himself, as he skewers a defender and gets a great look from a tight angle, but Zach MacMath makes yet another great stop! Inter Miami want more, but how much time is left?

Leonardo Campana comes on for Luis Suarez, who exits with a noticeable limp, nursing a chronic knee injury. Four minutes of added time are shown.

86th min: Chance, Inter Miami! Zach MacMath robs Luis Suarez of a debut goal with an utterly bonkers save! Lionel Messi again glides through the middle to unlock the RSL defense, and he sends it wide left, where the cross comes to the far post. Suarez seemed sure to slam the ball into the net from a tight angle, but he is denied by an outlandish point-blank stop from MacMath. Denied!

Sergio Busquets has been brought off, replaced by Lawson Sunderland, while the visitors take Cristian Arango out in favor of Bode Hidalgo.

83rd min: GOAL! INTER MIAMI! The hosts have finished off the game as Lionel Messi gets the hockey assist on Diego Gomez’s nail in the coffin! Messi makes the powerful run through the middle shaking off pressure, and passes forward to new signing Luis Suarez, and his first-touch feed to Gomez for the sumptuous finish.

That’s by far the most high-quality moment of the match for either side, and it punishes a sloppy and toothless RSL performance.

75th min: In a moment emblematic of Real Salt Lake’s evening, Anderson Julio snatches yet another bad Inter Miami giveaway and has Cristian Arango streaking clean through on goal having beaten DeAndre Yedlin. Julio’s cross is begging for Arango to meet it at the goal mouth, but Arango slips and falls to the turf. There was contact with Yedlin, but it’s not really blatant enough to give a penalty. Another chance goes by.

Inter Miami make their first changes, as Diego Gomez, Jean Mota and Noah Allen enter for Robert Taylor, Julian Gressel, and Tomas Aviles.

71st min: Chance, Real Salt Lake! With both sides trying to give the other team possession, Diego Luna blasts an off-balance shot miles over the crossbar. Then moments later Serhiy Kryvtsov gives it away in his own third and Anderson Julio has his shot deflected out for a corner.

The set-piece is wonderfully placed on a platter by Pablo Ruiz, and it meets the head of Brayan Vera who heads a shot destined to end up just under the crossbar, but Drake Callender is there to make a wonderful leaping save to tip it over!

Another RSL sub comes straight after, as Noel Calsikan replaces Luna, who wasn’t at his best in the match.

68th min: Diego Gomez picks up the first yellow card of the match as he wrestles Diego Luna down by his shirt and waist. It’s such an outlandishly blatant tackle that the official had the yellow card out of his pocket before Luna was eventually thrown to the turf.

65th min: Chance, Real Salt Lake! A volley from Andrew Brody goes wide! Great ball movement from RSL up front, maybe their best attacking move so far, but it’s a shot with a high degree of difficulty on the eventual volleyed effort first-time, and it doesn’t come close to the target. Inter Miami defense was scattered!

As a response, Pablo Mastroeni makes a pair of attacking changes, the first of the match as Anderson Julio and new signing Fidel Barajas enter the match, replacing Carlos Gomez and Nelson Palacio.

60th min: Lionel Messi blasts a shot into the face (hand?) of RSL defender Brayan Vera, but it doesn’t matter as Sergio Busquets was offside in the buildup. VAR gives it a look, and the shot definitely hit the left hand of Vera raised up by his head, but Busquets was indeed off and RSL get away with it.

59th min: Julian Gressel bungles a pair of great looks on goal as Inter Miami are given a few gifts themselves. He’s teed up by Zach MacMath who does poorly to clear a ball with his head outside his penalty area. The next one is a weak shot deflected out for a corner, and both opportunities go begging.

56th min: A long spell of attacking pressure from Real Salt Lake comes from a Tomas Aviles giveaway. They aren’t able to get a good look on goal, as Cristian Arango’s shot is blocked and the ensuing corner is cleared, but the Inter Miami possessional mistakes are starting to pile up.

53rd min: Chance, Inter Miami! Lionel Messi tees up Julian Gressel from nothing, but the new Inter Miami signing fizzes his leaping volley just inches wide of the far post! Messi’s shot assist was insane, having dribbled himself laterally across the top of the penalty area and hemmed in wide left, but contorted his body and whipped the cross behind him to Gressel’s run at the far post.

49th min: Chance, Real Salt Lake! Carlos Gomez has botched a wonderful opportunity! He picks the pocket of Sergio Busquets and is off to the races, but with Cristian Arango completely unmarked, he selfishly takes it himself and fires wide right! He’s got to feed his striker there!

Real Salt Lake look much improved after halftime, and Inter Miami have committed a fair few of their trademark mistakes in possession. If the visitors can get themselves on the counter a few times, they can trouble this Inter Miami side bereft of pace.

48th min: Serhiy Kryvtsov has another very nervy moment as he awkwardly bundles over Cristian Arango just outside the top of the penalty area. It’s definitely a foul, but the official waves it away, and VAR does not intervene. The coming together was not in the 18-yard box, so VAR cannot recommend a penalty review, and they decide it’s not worthy of a DOGSO decision.

Kickoff: They’re back under way for the second half at Chase Stadium. Inter Miami will feel they are in complete control of the match, but Real Salt Lake will be pleased they are only down a goal and are within striking distance. Who will make good on that positive outlook?

HALFTIME: Inter Miami 1-0 Real Salt Lake

Lionel Messi has begun the 2024 MLS season on a mission, and he has Inter Miami in full control of this match, having completely dominated the first 45 minutes.

However, it certainly feels more like Real Salt Lake have been awful than Inter Miami have been great. The RSL midfield was putrid, wasteful through the entire first half, and the lone goal came off a Zach MacMath mistake.

For all their pressure, Inter Miami only leading by a goal feels like a win for RSL, and the visitors now will feel they are right in it if they can turn things around at the break. But that turnaround is, at the moment, miles away. They were utterly horrid in their first 45 minutes of the season.

Oh hey look, Will Smith’s in the house at Chase Stadium. Welcome to Miami (kind of), bienvenidos a Miami.

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake: First Half

45th min: Oh my goodness gracious, Lionel Messi just almost produced one of the most outlandish highlights you’ll ever see. Inter Miami nearly catch the RSL back line napping as Zach MacMath, way off his line out of the penalty area, gives it away cheaply.

Inter Miami scramble to create a shot on the open goal, and in the process, Andrew Brody went down injured at the top of the penalty area. Play continued, and Messi got on the ball looking to create a shot. While dribbling at full speed, he quite literally DRIBBLED OVER THE PLAYER ON THE TURF but his eventual shot was blocked.

That was NUTS, only missing the finish. Brody, meanwhile, is down in a good amount of pain. It looks like he may have been stepped on his right wrist by Julian Gressel earlier in the play, that looks very painful.

39th min: GOAL! INTER MIAMI! Robert Taylor has the 2024 MLS season’s first goal, and Lionel Messi gets the assist! Oh NO, Zach MacMath has been fantastic so far under heavy pressure, but he’ll be so disappointed to watch that one back.

Sergio Busquets finds Lionel Messi, and the Inter Miami star turns and creates space on the run. He feeds a vertical ball to Robert Taylor down the right side of the penalty area, and Taylor fires a low shot on frame. It’s not a terribly vicious effort, and MacMath’s dive gets him there, but he doesn’t get enough contact on the ball and it squirts through, slow-rolling over the line. That has to be saved!

It’s an awful goal to concede, but you can’t say it’s not deserved, as Inter Miami have been far and away the better team through the entire first half.

34th min: Inter Miami and Lionel Messi just continue to cook. Messi combines with Julian Gressel and Robert Taylor, and nearly gets a shot off, but the ball bobbles to Zach MacMath instead.

32nd min: I mean…that just can’t happen. Real Salt Lake striker Chicho Arango is gifted a bad Inter Miami pass 25 yards from goal at the top of the penalty area, but decides to just rip it on net, and skies it to the moon. What a waste!

23rd min: Chance, Inter Miami! Again the hosts come close, and again Zach MacMath denies Inter Miami! Diego Gomez produces a wonderful lashed volley as he whips his boot at a bouncing ball, but the RSL goalkeeper makes a fabulous diving save, just getting a fingertip to the ball which deflects it wide of the far post. It’s still scoreless, but only just, as the chances keep coming for Inter Miami!

21st min: Chance, Inter Miami! The hosts are pummeling Real Salt Lake from the top of the six-yard box! Lionel Messi sends a defender for a hot dog with a delicious flick onto his right, and his shot is blocked, and Robert Taylor’s follow-up is also blocked. DeAndre Yedlin has a go seconds later, firing wide right, but the offside flag is up. Inter Miami are swarming the attacking third in droves, and RSL need some kind of outlet.

20th min: Chance, Inter Miami! RSL have a chance with Arango, but he’s all by himself again and gets swarmed by three defenders in pink. Inter Miami go right down the other end and Luis Suarez forces a save from Zach MacMath! The RSL goalkeeper has been very busy to start this match.

17th min: Chance, Inter Miami! All preseason Lionel Messi was looking for an Olimpico goal straight from a corner, and he goes for it here, forcing Zach MacMath to tip over the crossbar! Awkward for the goalkeeper, and so close again for Messi from a set-piece.

The next delivery is a floater towards the far post and cleared — he didn’t try for two in a row.

15th min: Chance, Inter Miami! The first yellow card of the MLS season is shown to Pablo Ruiz, as he fouls Lionel Messi on the break. There’s not a lot of contact, but it does look like he gives the Inter Miami star a push in the back. The replacement referees will have a big spotlight on them early this season, and this wasn’t a great early decision.

It gives the hosts a dangerous free-kick chance, which Messi will line up from 27 yards. That’s deep, but he’s done crazier things — and he produces a STUNNER, seeking the top-right corner, but only kept out by Justin Glad who heads off the line!!! SO CLOSE FOR MESSI! From an RSL perspective, putting two defenders literally on the line is a brilliant way to defend the greatest set-piece taker in the world.

14th min: The calamitous Inter Miami defense has finally arrived. 32-year-old Serhiy Kryvtsov is roasted by Arango in transition and the Ukrainian defender falls flat on his face. It nearly leads to a RSL chance, but the ball rolls to a charging Drake Callender before any gold jersey can meet the feed from out wide right.

11th min: Real Salt Lake have been miserable on the ball to start the match, with constant giveaways and fouls in midfield, succumbing to Inter Miami’s high counter-press. Finally they get forward to Chicho Arango, but he’s isolated down the left and has no support in the middle, eventually coughing it up. It’s early obviously, but RSL look second-best so far.

7th min: Lionel Messi draws his first foul of the season as he gets a bear hug from Justin Glad about 40 yards from goal. It’s too deep for a hit on goal, even for Messi, but it’s a dangerous set-piece. Inter Miami don’t serve a good ball in, but somehow it squirts through everyone to Luis Suarez, but the Uruguayan didn’t look ready for it, and it clatters off him up over the crossbar.

2nd min: Inter Miami are into the attack right from the jump, and it nearly gets Lionel Messi in on goal! Robert Taylor loops one over the RSL defense into the path of a streaking Messi, but there’s just not enough room for the Argentine to get on the ball before he collides with goalkeeper Zach MacMath.

That’s very close! The RSL netminder will have to be on his game today knowing Inter Miami will be sending a lot of deep balls and crosses into his area.

Kickoff: They’re under way at Chase Stadium in Florida! The 2024 Major League Soccer season is OFFICIALLY in session.

Just before kickoff, Inter Miami had an on-field presentation to welcome Luis Suarez to the side, after signing for Inter Miami this offseason.

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake: Pre-match commentary, analysis, stats, and more

15 mins to kickoff: What will Lionel Messi bring to the pitch in 2024? His injection into Major League Soccer has been a massive financial boost for both Inter Miami and MLS, but aside from the initial burst in the Leagues Cup, he didn’t add much on the field in terms of hard and fast results.

Can the Argentine legend change that in his first full season and lead the Herons to never-before-seen glory at the young South Florida club, or will Inter Miami fall hard, their patchwork roster proving too much for Messi to shoulder on his own? We’re about to find out!

30 mins to kickoff: For Real Salt Lake, new signing Matt Crooks, a playmaker on his way to the U.S. from English club Middlesborough, is still in the process of obtaining a work permit and thus is not available for this match.

Head coach Pablo Mastroeni has decided to play talisman Cristian Arango up front as a lone striker, leaving Anderson Julio on the bench in favor of another midfielder in Pablo Ruiz, while Andrew Brody is preferred to veteran Bryan Oviedo at left-back.

45 mins to kickoff: The Inter Miami lineup is in, and there are a few interesting wrinkles for Tata Martino in his first XI of the 2024 season.

First and foremost, Sergio Busquets shakes off his preseason ankle injury to start. David Ruiz is unlucky not to see the starting lineup, with Robert Taylor deployed on the wing and Julian Gressel in midfield. New defensive signing Nicolas Friere isn’t even in the matchday squad thanks to a prior muscle injury, despite appearing in the latest preseason friendly.

1 hour to kickoff: The last time Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Luis Suarez all started a match together? That would be the 8-2 demolition of Barcelona at the hands of Bayern Munich. It’s been a long time for the Barca Gang, but they’re back on the field as one unit tonight, as long as Busquets can overcome his ankle injury suffered during the preseason match in Tokyo.

Incredibly, just earlier today that match came full circle as Robert Lewandowski became the first Barcelona player not named Lionel Messi to score a Champions League knockout stage since Suarez scored in that 8-2 result.

1 hour 15 mins to kick: Lionel Messi enters the 2024 MLS season with 11 goals for Inter Miami, a very new club which will embark on its fourth season of existence. As such, the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, fellow Argentine Gonzalo Higuain, is just 18 goals in front of Messi. Will Messi catch his countrymate by the time the year is concluded and become Inter Miami’s all-time leading goal scorer?

1 hour 30 mins to kick: Real Salt Lake are going with their gold’s tonight for their season opener on the road, which are pretty awesome kits.

1 hour 45 mins to kick: You may notice that the venue for tonight’s match — Inter Miami’s home stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, FL — has a new name. It’s been rebranded from DRV PNK (pronounced “drive pink”) Stadium to Chase Stadium, sporting a new sponsor for 2024.

2 hours to kickoff: Earlier, we touched on expectations vs reality for Inter Miami with regards to the 2024 MLS Cup title. The same questions must be asked of Lionel Messi on an individual basis.

At 36 years old, set to turn 37 in the summer, Messi is the overwhelming betting favorite to win the 2024 Golden Boot, but can he really keep himself fit for a realistic chance at the top goal scorer award? We took a look at how many goals Messi can reasonably be expected to score this year in MLS play, and while he may be in the mix for the award, it’s hard to see him actually coming out on top.

Here are the Golden Boot predictions for the 2024 MLS season from The Sporting News:

2 hours 15 mins to kick: Tonight’s match, as will all MLS matches for the foreseeable future, will be officiated by a replacement referee as the regular MLS officials are in the middle of a lockout, failing to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, their direct employers.

Tonight’s head referee is Cristian Campo Hernandez, who officiated matches last year in both the USL Championship and USL League 1, the second and third tiers of soccer in the United States. Hernandez is one of 70 officials who will work matches during the work stoppage, while the regular referees are out picketing for a better labor agreement.

Earlier today, MLS and PRO held a press conference where they announced the postponement of a few rule changes that had been scheduled to go into effect this season, and said they aren’t quite sure what the referee union wants in their negotiations. It’s a very awkward and tenuous situation.

2 hours 30 mins to kick: The expectations for Lionel Messi and Inter Miami are sky high this season. They are overwhelming betting favorites to win MLS Cup in 2024, while Messi is also far and away the favorite to win the league’s top goal scorer award.

In all honesty, the expectations are patently absurd. This team, which had Lionel Messi for multiple months last year, finished 14th in the East, second-to-last. Inter Miami failed to address any defensive frailties, even trading their best defender in Kamal Miller, and they sport paper-thin depth in both midfield and up front. The club’s most important players are all at an advanced age and sport a patchy injury history, and will struggle to remain on the field for consistent minutes.

Here, you can find 2024 MLS season predictions from The Sporting News:

2 hours 45 mins to kick: Timed perfectly with the start of the MLS season, Apple TV+ has released a documentary following Lionel Messi at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, detailing Argentina’s historic title run.

The Sporting News got early access to Messi’s World Cup: Rise of a Legend and put together a comprehensive review of what is ultimately a four-episode mini-series worth the time for football fans old and new, even if it ends with a bit of a whimper.

3 hours to kickoff: The MLS season will begin with replacement officials after PRO, the organization that employs the league’s match referees, escalated an ongoing labor dispute by locking out the unionized regular officials just days before the first match of the season. The Athletic reports that 66 replacement officials have been brought aboard to help keep the season on track.

The same thing happened 10 years ago, when the 2014 season began with two weeks of replacement officials taking charge of 16 matches before an agreement was reached and the regular referees returned to action.

Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake lineups, team news

Inter Miami’s tactical setup will be interesting to see as they begin their 2024 competitive campaign. Head coach Tata Martino has experimented with a number of setups, but it would reason to expect a return to the 4-3-3 he used most often last year.

Lionel Messi is considered fit to start the year despite a muscle injury in preseason, while new signing Luis Suarez is also ready to go. Both will have to be heavily managed throughout the year, so don’t be surprised to see them sit out games for rest at various points.

Sergio Busquets is back in the lineup after missing the last preseason match with an ankle injury. Young midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi is out for the first few months with a knee injury, while mainstay Gregore was offloaded to Brazilian side Botafogo, meaning the Inter Miami midfield is dangerously thin at the onset of the season.

Inter Miami starting lineup (4-3-3): Callender (GK) — Yedlin, Aviles, Kryvtsov, Alba — D. Gomez, Busquets, Gressel — Messi, Suarez, Taylor.

Inter Miami subs (9): Dos Santos (GK), Allen, Sailor, Boatwright, Sunderland, Mota, D. Ruiz, Borgelin, Campana.

Midfielder Pablo Ruiz and his meniscus tear is the only confirmed fitness issue for Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni, but Erik Holt remains sidelined after missing almost all of last season with a shoulder injury. Young full-back Kevin Bonilla also misses out due to a knee problem.

Winter signings Matt Crooks and Fidel Barajas are potential new starters for this side moving forward, but for today, Crooks will have to wait as his work permit is still in progress.

Real Salt Lake starting lineup (4-5-1): MacMath (GK) — Eneli, Vera, Glad, Oviedo — C. Gomez, Ojeda, P. Ruiz, Palacio, Luna — Arango.

Real Salt Lake subs (9): Beavers (GK), Silva, Oviedo, Davis, M. Ramirez, Caliskan, Barajas, Kei, Julio.

How to watch Inter Miami vs Real Salt Lake

The exclusive home of Inter Miami and the entire 2024 MLS season is MLS Season Pass from Apple TV, available for fans to watch from around the globe.

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