How Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez led Inter Miami to 5-0 victory over Orlando City, highlights

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lionel Messi saw his close friend Luis Suárez nearly notch a hat trick in the first half.

So, Messi nearly notched his own after halftime.

Messi scored twice in the second half within five minutes, Suárez added two goals in the first 11 minutes with two assists, and Robert Taylor scored another as Inter Miami cruised to a 5-0 victory over in-state rival Orlando City on Saturday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Inter Miami has seven points after three matches with two wins and a draw to begin the 2024 MLS season. It was the type of performance that made you think Messi and Suárez were still in the prime of their careers and not the twilight.

“We are good, we are enjoying, we are growing,” Messi said in a postgame interview with Apple TV. "Today was an important game to win to continue on that path of growth, and the truth is that this has to make us very strong for everything that is to come."

Messi’s first goal was fluky and funny: He chest-bumped a rebound and tried to score a chip shot, standing in front of an empty net while Orlando City’s Rodrigo Schlegel tried to pull him away. Messi just laughed as the ball rolled into the net in the 57th minute.

Messi’s second was a beauty: He received a pass across the field from Suarez and used his head to find the lower, left corner of the net in the 62nd minute.

Messi had two free kicks in the match, including the 91st minute, but missed both opportunities to notch his third goal. He didn't need to after the work Suárez provided early.

Suárez, the Uruguayan striker, scored from the right side on his first score in the fourth minute and from the left side on his second in the 11th minute.

Fellow newcomer Julian Gressel, who won two MLS Cups, assisted on both goals. Both players left the match after 67 minutes.

“It’s so difficult to start again because I changed my form, and how I play," Suárez said of playing with Messi and the first two goals of his Inter Miami career. "And I think he knows everything about myself."

Taylor added to the lead with a goal, his second of the year, following an assist from Suárez in the 29th minute.

Suárez nearly had a hat trick before halftime, but an offside call ruled what could have been Inter Miami’s fourth goal off the board as Taylor was ruled offside.

Messi also had several attempts, missing a free kick off the left post in the 34th minute before the floodgates opened in the second half.

One day after the four-year anniversary of Inter Miami’s first match in Major League Soccer, the club secured its biggest win in team history with the former FC Barcelona stars showing they have plenty left in the tank.

"Those guys aren’t here to put their feet up. And I think you’ve seen that from the last few weeks," Gressel said of Messi and Suárez. “They’ve been great. They want to win. And they’re trying to do everything for the team to win.”

The match was Inter Miami’s third of the season and came six days after their last. But the road gets arduous again with Inter Miami in a stretch of five matches in 14 days, while Messi could play seven matches in 21 days – his last two with Argentina for Copa America warmups later this month.

"We have to be more careful with the recovery of the players," Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said.

Below the photo, see a recap of the game action and pre-match highlights:

Inter Miami forward Luis Suarez, far right, celebrates with teammates Jordi Alba, left and Lionel Messi, center, after scoring his second goal of the first half against Orlando City.
Inter Miami forward Luis Suarez, far right, celebrates with teammates Jordi Alba, left and Lionel Messi, center, after scoring his second goal of the first half against Orlando City.

Messi scores second goal with a header: Inter Miami 5, Orlando City 0

Lionel Messi has found the back of the net for the second time, scoring on a header in 62nd minute to give Inter Miami a 5-0 lead.

Messi ran down the right side and received a pass across the field from Suárez, and Messi drilled it perfectly into the left corner of the net.

Messi scores goal in second half: Inter Miami 4, Orlando City 0

Messi scored on a goal following a chest pass, while an Orlando City defender tried to pull him away from a chip shot into the net in the 56th minute, to give Inter Miami a 4-0 lead.

It was a funny sequence with the defender physically pulling Messi away as the easiest goal opportunity presented itself.

Jordi Alba kicked a shot into the net, but Orlando’s Robin Jansson kicked out of the net.

Messi came over to stop the ball with his chest, before Orlando’s Rodrigo Schlegel impeded his chip shot into the net.

Messi watched as the ball just slowly rolled into the back of the net.

Messi, Gressel miss shots on goal early in second half: Inter Miami 3, Orlando City 0

Messi had another chance to score during Inter Miami’s rout, but he was just wide right.

Messi’s miss came in the 54nd minute, just after a two misses by Julian Gressel.

Gressel’s second kick hit the top post and came back into play instead of the back of the net, while his first kick was too high.

Ojeda goal is no good: Inter Miami 3, Orlando City 0

Inter Miami nearly surrendered a goal to begin the second half, but the score remains 3-0.

Orlando City’s Martin Ojeda scored past Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar, but referees ruled he was offside after the kick.

Suárez nearly gets hat trick: Inter Miami 3, Orlando City 0

Luis Suárez nearly had a hat trick before halftime, waving his finger in displeasure to the referee’s decision, but Robert Taylor was ruled offside.

Suárez dribbled past Orlando City goalie Pedro Gallese, who was too far away from the net, and kicked a goal that dribbled into the net.

It nearly was a hat trick for Suárez, and a 4-0 lead before halftime by Inter Miami.

Messi misses free kick goal: Inter Miami 3, Orlando City 0

Lionel Messi had a chance at a free kick toward the net, but was unable to convert.

Messi’s kick had the patented bend you’ve seen from him all his career, but his shot hit the left post outside the stretched hands of Orlando City goalie Pedro Gallese.

Robert Taylor goal: Inter Miami 3, Orlando City 0

Inter Miami is rolling in the first half against Orlando City, with Robert Taylor scoring his second goal of the season in the 29th minute.

Taylor received a pass from Luis Suárez, who scored the game’s first two goals. And Inter Miami fortunately stayed onside.

The Orlando City goalie Pedo Gallese played too close to Suárez, giving Taylor an open net.

Messi nearly has shot, but wows fans with dribbles: Inter Miami 2, Orlando City 0

Lionel Messi nearly had a shot on goal, before an Orlando City player stopped him in his tracks near the net in the 25th minute.

Still, Messi quickly captivated fans with two dribbling moves that got oohs and aahs from fans in attendance.

One dribble saw Messi just place a ball in front of a running defender. The other, Messi just toyed with the defender.

Luis Suárez goal: inter Miami 2, Orlando City 0

Two goals in 11 minutes for Luis Suárez.

This time, Suárez’s left boot from the left side of the pitch gives Inter Miami an early 2-0 lead against Orlando City.

It’s a brace for Suárez, who smiled brightly while hugging Lionel Messi and Robert Taylor after the score.

Luis Suárez goal: Inter Miami 1, Orlando City 0

One minute Luis Suárez was in pain. The next, he’s found the back of the net.

Suárez scored a goal in the 4th minute of the match, following a pass from Julian Gressel.

Suarez went down after a challenge from a defender, and seemed to favor his right leg in the third minute. He struggled in his first two Inter Miami matches. But a game-opening goal was an ideal start.

Messi warmup videos before Inter Miami vs. Orlando City

The vibes were high as Messi took the pitch for pregame warmups. He received a loud ovation, and quickly greeted fans seated in the stands. He also did some warmup drills with teammate Luis Luis Suárez, and even made a practice penalty kick.

Will Messi play vs. Orlando City? Here are the starting lineups

Messi is in the starting lineup for Inter Miami. Here are the lineups for both teams:

MLS pulls referee from game after photos surface wearing Inter Miami shirt

Major League Soccer’s referee lockout hit a major inflection point on Saturday, just hours before Lionel Messi and Inter Miami play in a nationally televised match.

Referee Guiherme Ceretta was removed for the officiating crew from Inter Miami’s match against Orlando City, set for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff after photos of him wearing Inter Miami apparel surfaced online.

“Referee Guiherme Ceretta was removed from the game due to a potential conflict,” the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports before the match.

Does Messi speak English? Inter Miami teammate shares funny story

Lionel Messi speaks a little more English than he’s letting on – a surprise for the Inter Miami star, who won the World Cup with Argentina.

Inter Miami’s Julian Gressel said Messi gave him clear directions in English during a preseason match in Saudi Arabia.

Messi’s reaction after speaking in English to Gressel: English, pretty good, no?

Messi dealing with fatigue before Inter Miami vs. Orlando City?

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino expressed concern about how hard Messi played in the first two matches of the season. Preserving Messi’s body is a major part about the long game, too.

“Of course, I’ve been discussing some things with him. What worries me the most is the day-to-day and how he is recovering game by game,” Martino said.

“I feel that in these first two matches, we have relied on him excessively in each encounter, which has caused him significant fatigue in both games.”

Messi has a game-tying goal and an assist in his first two games this season. Inter Miami enters with four of six possible points following a win over Real Salt Lake and a draw against the Galaxy.

What is Messi’s schedule with Inter Miami and Argentina in March?

Along with Inter Miami’s season, Messi is expected to join Argentina for this summer’s Copa America, which could be his last major international tournament after the 2022 World Cup. He’s 36.

Messi’s workload will be considerably high with five Inter Miami matches and two matches with the Argentine national team in the next three weeks of March.

Saturday’s Inter Miami home game against Orlando City begins a five-game stretch in two weeks. The second and fourth games of the stretch will be against Nashville SC in the round of 16 of the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Messi was also selected by Argentina to play in two recently announced matches – March 22 vs. El Salvador in Philadelphia and March 26 vs. Costa Rica in Los Angeles – which puts him in the mix for seven matches in 21 days.

If Messi plays in the friendlies, he would miss Inter Miami’s road game against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on March 23. Inter Miami's March 30 home game against New York FC could either be Messi’s return or a rest day after his March slate.

What is Argentina’s Copa America 2024 schedule?

Argentina will play in the tournament opener against Canada or Trinidad and Tobago on June 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Argentina’s second match is against Chile on June 25 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Argentina will also play Peru on June 29 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Copa America final will be held at the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins on July 14.

Before Argentina plays in Copa America, they will have two warmup matches: June 9 vs. Ecuador at Soldier Field in Chicago; June 14 vs. Guatemala at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

Messi would miss at least five Inter Miami matches this summer if Argentina reaches the Copa América final again. The potential matches: June 15 at Philadelphia Union; June 19 vs. Columbus Crew; June 29 at Nashville; July 3 at Charlotte FC; and July 6 at FC Cincinnati.

Messi reaches 500 million followers on Instagram

Lionel Messi has achieved another milestone, this time on social media.

Messi, the 2022 World Cup champion and eight-time Ballon d’Or winner as the soccer’s best player, has reached 500 million followers on Instagram last weekend.

Check out his thank you post here.

Messi goes viral with dribbling move over injured player

Lionel Messi, with just one sequence in his season opener, showed why he’s seen by many as the best soccer player in the world.

Messi went viral after dribbling over an injured defender – Andrew Brody, who was laying on the field after getting his hand stepped on earlier in the sequence – during the first half of Inter Miami’s 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Inter Miami vs Orlando score: Messi, Suárez get two goals, highlights