On Friday, New York City FC played Inter Miami CF in an unexpected friendly. The two sides met to celebrate Lionel Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or. Neither side made the playoffs, so in some ways, it made sense. At the same time, the Pigeons were already into their offseason when the match was scheduled.
In addition, Nick Cushing put out a Starting XI filled with predominantly starters. This would have been a good time to allow some of the younger players to earn minutes. Instead, NYCFC and Miami put out lineups as if they were playing a regular season game.
The only starter that was missing was James Sands. It was unknown why he was not available. Instead, Andrés Perea earned the surprise start since his loan expires at the end of the year.
Many would have thought NYCFC would have ended the evening in a draw or loss. That was not the case, for they won 2-1.
NYCFC beat Messi and Inter Miami in the unexpected friendly
Even though NYCFC and Miami were playing a friendly, the players played like they were playing a regular season fixture. It was competitive where defenders were going in for tackles. There was no holding back by anyone.
Clearly, it was not the Pigeons' best time on the pitch. Defensively, they were at times in shambles. It was incredible they made it through the first half without the Herons scoring, let alone 81 minutes. The home team dominated the possession during the first 45 minutes, for they had over 76%. Meanwhile, the visitors controlled the ball more in the second half, for they caused Miami to finish with a little over 68%.
Thankfully, Matt Freese was mostly on his A-game. He had four saves on the night and pounced on the ball every chance he could. The goal he gave up occurred after some of the starters departed the pitch. Nonetheless, he was a vital reason why his team won.
However, when NYCFC was on the attack, they looked threatening. Their passes in the final third were smoother, and fewer giveaways occurred. That was why it was not surprising when the Bronx side went in front in the 43rd minute. Talles Magno, who looked incredible in his natural left-winger position, scored the opener. The Brazilian put the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The second goal came early in the second half. Julián Fernández received a pinpoint pass from Magno as he ran toward the goal. In a flash, he smashed the ball into the back of the net to put NYCFC up 2-0. The two wingers gave supporters a glimpse of what 2024 can look like when they start. Moreover, Magno had one of his better performances of the year, again illuminating he is a winger and not a striker.
Sadly, NYCFC could not earn the clean sheet. Miami’s Robbie Robinson put his team on the board in the 81st minute. The Herons fought, but the Pigeons were able to hold on. Messi even had a free kick at the end of the game right outside the box. He sent the ball over the bar, and the final whistle blew to end the night.
While it was a friendly, it was satisfying to see NYCFC beat Messi’s Miami. They spoiled the celebratory night. As nice as it was, it would have been even nicer to see some of the younger players on the bench, like Máximo Carrizo.
If anything, the fixture showed a resilient New York City FC. It was not their best match, but they scored the goals to earn the win.