By Official Florida FC
The Sunshine State had to wait three decades for its second U.S. Open Cup champion. Now, its on the verge of a second straight triumph since America’s oldest soccer tournament returned from its pandemic pause.
Inter Miami hosts the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday night.
The Herons have come a long way, in personnel and performance, from the side that needed two late equalizers to force its Third Round matchup against Miami FC into penalty kicks.
New manager, new tactics and, of course, a serial winner in Lionel Messi. The Argentine’s two assists helped Inter Miami beat F.C. Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 23.
Inter Miami 2023 U.S. Open Cup results
|Round of 16
F.C. Cincinnati is the heavy favorite to win the Supporters Shield and was unbeaten in 18 matches at TQL Stadium this season when Inter Miami eliminated them on penalty kicks. That win, propelled the Herons into a home final against a Dynamo club looking to win the tournament for the second time.
Each of the last five Open Cup winners have lifted the trophy at home. However, Houston head coach Ben Olsen has won the tournament in a hostile environment. Olsen managed an unfancied D.C. United team to a U.S. Open Cup title in 2013.
“They’ve been won away before,” Olsen told usopencup.com. “I remember winning one [an Open Cup Final] on the road, in their building, against a heralded Real Salt Lake team [in 2013, when Olsen was coach of D.C. United]. It’s soccer and anything can happen,” “You’d always like to be home for the Final but we’re not and that’s a reality. We’ll act accordingly to be at our best.”
It is soccer. But, teams with Messi don’t often lose national championships.
Messi won seven Copa del Rey titles in 10 finals at Barcelona. He scored in seven of those finals.
Inter Miami has shown they are more than a magisterial No. 10. Six different players have scored in their run to the final, with only Nico Stefanelli and Leo Campana scoring more than once.
If Inter Miami does win the Open Cup for the first time, Campana’s header deep into stoppage time against F.C. Cincinnati will live in lore.