Miami, without Messi, lose US Open Cup final
The Houston Dynamo defeated Inter Miami 2-1 to win the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday with an injured Lionel Messi watching from the stands at DRV PNK Stadium.
Without Messi and his former Barcelona team-mate Jordi Alba, Miami struggled to compete with an enterprising Houston and could have little to complain about the outcome.
Miami co-owner David Beckham, who watched the game with his former Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane, had hoped for another night of celebration for his club after their Leagues Cup triumph last month.
But Miami lacked intensity and ideas as they were given the runaround by Ben Olsen's impressive Houston team.
No clear explanation has been given for Messi's injury with references to "muscle fatigue" followed by talk from coach Gerardo Martino of "scars" from an old injury.
The World Cup-winner was withdrawn in the first half of the MLS win over Toronto last week and sat out Sunday's draw at Orlando City.
With no Messi to worry about, Houston were on top from the outset, moving the ball around with confidence and purpose while Miami with Sergio Busquets the only one of their trio of ex-Barca players on the field, struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Drake Callender was forced into a double save when Nelson Quinones drove towards the far post, the Miami keeper pushing the ball out and then doing well to get his legs to the follow up from Corey Bair.
But Houston grabbed the lead in the 24th minute with a perfect counter-attack ending with Brazilian Artur feeding the overlapping Griffin Dorsey who blasted in at the near post.
Houston were utterly dominant, passing the ball with a swiftness that left Miami chasing shadows and it wasn't long before they had doubled their advantage.
Colombian winger Quinones cut into the box from the left flank and Miami right-back DeAndre Yedlin's desperate lunge brought him crashing to the ground. French forward Amine Bassi made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-0.
Miami coach Gerard Martino made two changes at the break, bringing on Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez and Ecuadorean midfielder Dixon Arroyo.
Martinez had a chance to get Miami back into the game in the 56th minute, heading wide from a good position before Benjamin Cremaschi forced Dynamo keeper Andrew Tarbell into a low save.
But as Inter pushed forward in search of a goal, Houston broke away and looked to have finished the contest off when Quinones scored after being set up by Bassi but the effort was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
Martinez gave Miami some late hope with a left-foot strike in stoppage time after latching on to a ball from Argentine Facundo Farias.
But it was too little, too late from Miami and Houston deservedly won their second U.S. Open Cup to add to their triumph in 2018.
Miami had won the Leagues Cup last month with Messi prominently involved but they must now battle to make the Major League Soccer play-offs with uncertainty over their Argentine star's fitness.