Houston holds on to beat Inter Miami 2-1 as Lionel Messi sits with injury

Lionel Messi left last week's game early due to fatigue, and he didn't play on Wednesday night.

The Houston Dynamo took full advantage of Lionel Messi’s absence on Wednesday night.

The Dynamo rolled past Inter Miami 2-1 at DRV PNK Stadium in South Florida on Wednesday night to officially win the U.S. Open Cup. It marked the second in club history following their victory in 2018. The Dynamo dominated the first half while Messi, who has been outstanding since he arrived earlier this summer, missed another match due to fatigue.

Houston then held on in the second half and, even though they had a goal wiped off the board following a review, held on late to the one-goal win to take home the cup.

Griffin Dorsey got Houston on the board first in the 24th minute after he broke free on the right side and launched the ball to the upper corner past Drake Callender.

Amine Bassi converted a penalty kick less than 10 minutes later, too, after he was tackled in the box by DeAndre Yedlin. That put Houston up 2-0, which it held the rest of the way to the break.

Miami finally got on the board to avoid the shutout after Josef Martinez snuck the ball between the legs of Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark in the 91st minute. By then, though, it was too late to even the match and force extra time.

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said Messi wouldn’t play in the match if it were simply a regular-season Major League Soccer match. The U.S. Open Cup final carries more weight, and Martino and Messi met prior to the contest to determine his availability.

After dazzling all around the world, Messi joined Inter Miami in June, and his impact was felt immediately. Messi scored nine goals in his first six games with the team, leading it to a Leagues Cup victory.

Messi and Inter Miami survived a wild match with FC Cincinnati and won on penalties 5-4 last month to reach the U.S. Open Cup final. Messi entered Wednesday night having missed or exited six straight games between club and country. He first “felt something” in his leg during Argentina’s win over Ecuador on Sept. 7. He left last week’s game against Toronto FC late in the first half, too.

A healthy Messi would have gone a long way for Inter Miami on Wednesday night, considering he turned one of the worst clubs in MLS completely around when he first arrived. Without Messi, the club struggled against Houston — which beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 in its semifinals match, but is…

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