Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match.

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

 

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match
Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

Inter Miami’s preseason campaign witnessed an end to its scoring drought on Monday, as Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and David Ruiz found the back of the net. However, despite the high-profile goals, the team faced a 4-3 defeat against the Saudi league leader Al Hilal in a friendly at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. This marked the third consecutive preseason game without a victory for Miami, following a scoreless draw against El Salvador’s national team and a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas.

The match unfolded with an early setback for Messi and his teammates, falling behind 2-0 within the first 13 minutes due to goals from former Fulham and Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic and Abdullah Al-Hamdan. Miami’s defense struggled against a depleted Al Hilal squad missing eight players due to injuries and national team duties.

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match
Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

Despite being the visiting team and enduring a 7,500-mile journey in just the third week of their training camp, Inter Miami faced intense pressure to secure a win with its star-studded lineup. The players, donned in new pink jerseys for the first time, encountered a passionate home crowd in blue at Kingdom Arena. Messi, who serves as a paid Saudi tourism ambassador, had previously been linked to a potential move to Al Hilal but ultimately chose Miami over the Saudi club.

 

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match.

The initial moments of the match saw Miami players appearing flat and unsettled, possibly adjusting to the eight-hour time difference and integrating new team members. However, Suarez, the Uruguayan forward who joined just before Christmas, provided a glimmer of hope by scoring his first goal with the club in the 34th minute. The goal, initially ruled offside, was eventually allowed after a review by the video assistant referee.

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match
Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

Al Hilal extended their lead to 3-1 just before halftime with a header by Brazilian forward Michael, who had previously played at Flamengo. The second half witnessed a momentum shift in favor of Miami, as Messi converted a 54th-minute penalty kick, and Ruiz added an equalizer with a curling shot from the left side just a minute later.

 

Messi, Suarez, and Ruiz find the net, but Inter Miami falls short in a 4-3 defeat to Al Hilal in a friendly match

Miami’s increased pace and improved performance in the second half suggested a potential 3-3 tie. In the 75th minute, Coach Tata Martino made strategic substitutions, bringing in Leo Campana, Gregore, and Christopher McVey. However, in the 88th minute, immediately after Messi exited the field and was replaced by Robert Taylor, Al Hilal’s Brazilian striker Malcom secured the game-winner against Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.

Despite the loss, Ruiz expressed confidence in the team’s trajectory. The upcoming challenge for Miami is a highly-anticipated match against Al Nassr on Thursday, featuring superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Playing alongside football legends like Messi, Alba, Busquets, and Suarez in Saudi Arabia was a significant experience for 19-year-old Honduran American Ruiz, who grew up in Little Havana and played youth soccer at Charles Hadley Park in Allapattah.

Ruiz, who spent seven years playing club soccer for the Miami United Stars, aims to contribute more goals and assists in the upcoming season. He acknowledges the influence of Messi’s quality on his gameplay, expressing a desire to inspire young kids in the academy and across Miami. When asked about concerns regarding the team’s winless preseason, Ruiz emphasized the focus on improvement and preparation for the upcoming MLS season.

As the young talent reflects on watching Messi and Ronaldo on television and now playing alongside them, he finds the experience truly special, illustrating the impact these football icons have on aspiring players and fans alike. The journey continues for Inter Miami, navigating preseason challenges with eyes set on success in the upcoming MLS campaign.

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