By Rory Carroll
July 25 (Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored two first half goals and assisted on another in the second to lead Inter Miami to a 4-0 dismantling of Atlanta United and advance to the knockout stage of the Leagues Cup on Tuesday.
After coming off the bench to score a dramatic game winner in his debut on Friday night, the newly minted team captain from Argentina wasted no time in his first start with the MLS side.
The World Cup champion received a lofting pass from former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets and, after initially hitting the post, fired home his own rebound to put Miami in front in the eighth minute to roars of approval from the home crowd.
Messi added a second goal in the 22nd minute on a diving cross from teammate Robert Taylor, who notched a brace of his own.
With the win Miami have now won their group in the Leagues Cup tournament, which is a World Cup-style tournament featuring all teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)