Genial Luis Suárez shows why he’s Inter Miami’s true path to MLS glory

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Luis Suárez;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Luis Suárez</a> of <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Inter Miami CF;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Inter Miami CF</a> celebrates after scoring his second goal during the first half of Saturday’s game against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Orlando City SC;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Orlando City SC</a> at Chase Stadium.</span><span>Photograph: Rich Storry/Getty Images</span>

If Inter Miami are to transition from glamour expansion club to true MLS Cup contenders – as the bookmakers suspect – the catalyst was evident within 10 minutes of the Florida derby against Orlando City.

It wasn’t Leo Messi magic that gave the home side a rapid two-nil lead, but two instinctual, clinical finishes from his former Barcelona teammate Luis Suárez.

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While Messi continues to deliver glamour and global eyeballs to Inter and MLS – his brilliance drawing purrs from rapt fans across the nation – it’ll perhaps be Suárez who does most to deliver the silverware club co-owner David Beckham craves, and this expensively assembled project demands.

This game ended 5-0 – a record margin of victory in this nascent rivalry and the biggest win in club history – with Suárez notching two goals, adding two assists, and playing a key role in all five goals. The performance announced Suárez to Inter Miami fans after some early season criticism.

“I am very happy for him [Suárez], that he was able to score. We were still calm, we know what Luis is and what he is capable of doing and everyone knows it,” said Messi speaking in Spanish to Apple TV. “He is like that, when you least expect it, he solves a game for you as he did today, with the goals with the assists.”

Just three minutes into his second home start in MLS, Suárez swept the ball home first time from a Julian Gressel pullback for his first goal in Inter Miami pink. After 10 minutes, a neat one-two with the same player resulted in a second for Suárez, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner after neat footwork to wrangle a bouncing ball.

After half an hour, Suárez unselfishly spurned the chance for a hat-trick, instead laying the ball off for Robert Taylor to roll into an empty net.

“The third goal shows who he is, where he squares the ball even though he’s on a hat-trick. That shows what he is for this team,” said teammate Gressel after the game.

That hat-trick goal may have followed just before the break, only for the assistant’s flag to intervene after Suarez rounded the keeper to tap home.

Indeed, those Miami fans – the majority of which were wearing Messi 10 and not Suárez 9 across their shoulders – were treated to the full Suárez experience during those explosive initial forays.

There were wild and expressive remonstrations with the officials after a couple of robust challenges from a petrified Orlando backline. That dramatic battlefield limp quickly (and suspiciously) cast aside when he sprang to life to convert those early chances.

And, of course, the 37-year-old was escorted from the field by teammates at half time after an altercation involving that same assistant referee and the Orlando bench. Provided ‘Bad Suárez’ doesn’t come too strongly to the fore, the first half typified why he may be Inter’s most important signing from an on-field perspective. Because the winner’s mentality has not diminished.

A terribly kept secret, Saurez was an offseason arrival from Brazilian club Gremio, where he captained the club to an historic season, scoring 24 goals and notching 17 assists. Gremio narrowly missed out on a first Serie A title since 1996, losing out Palmeiras by just two points.

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But his transformative effect was evident, just as it was at Liverpool more than a decade ago. Suárez found the net 31 times in the Premier League as Brendan Rodgers unfancied side came heartbreakingly close to ending Liverpool’s already epic title drought in 2014; before his successor Jürgen Klopp’s team finally did so in 2020.

At Barcelona, surrounded by similar talents, Suárez did not require quite the same talismanic feats, although Barca fans learned all about them when a spurned Suárez delivered the title for Atletico Madrid with 21 goals in 2020/2021.

However, it was the old Nou Camp trio of Suárez, Jordi Alba and Messi who combined to fashion a fourth goal for Inter early in the second half.

Suárez’ one-two with a surging Alba saw Orlando defender Robin Jansson crash the ball against the bar in a desperate effort to clear the fullback’s goal bound shot. Messi scrambled home the rebound. Minutes later Suárez put a left-wing cross on an unmarked Messi’s head for the fifth.

Suárez, who has said Inter Miami will be his final stop before retirement, was withdrawn on 67 minutes, to a standing ovation.

While Messi’s arrival undeniably predicated all that has transformed Inter Miami from MLS also rans to the league’s most unmissable team, it is likely to be the last bullets in the chamber of El Pistolero’s career that will be imperative if club is to complete the immediate championship transition the team was built to achieve.

“I hope the Miami fans are so happy,” said Suárez, with a wink after the game.