Lionel Messi continued his scoring streak with his eighth goal since his Inter Miami debut to seal a 4-0 victory over visiting Charlotte FC in a Leagues Cup quarterfinal match on Friday night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
It was a quiet night by Messi's standards, scoring only on a late one-timer from Leonardo Campana's cross after he had found the net twice in each of his first three starts.
Josef Martinez and Robert Taylor scored before halftime, and Messi's presence also helped create a second-half own goal that put the match out of reach.
Miami, which sits last in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference, has posted a 4-0-1 record since the Argentine superstar's debut in the tournament opener, while reaching the semis of this competition contested between all 47 teams in MLS and Mexico's Liga MX.
With a win in either the semifinals or the third-place match, the Herons will qualify for next year's CONCACAF Champions Cup, which would be the club's first continental competition.
Charlotte failed to register a shot on target before halftime and finished with two on an evening that the club reverted to its league form.
The Crown had only let in five goals in the first four games of this competition, but they looked more like the defense that has conceded an MLS-worst 40 times during the regular season.
Messi also has three assists while helping Miami outscore its opponents 17-6 in the tournament. But it was his teammates who created the early separation in Friday's match.
In the 12th minute, Martinez scored his second goal of the tournament. Both have come on penalty kicks, in a role as penalty taker that many assumed Messi would fill.
Then Taylor scored his fourth of the tournament in the 32nd minute when he popped up with a late run reminiscent of Messi's first goal in the group stage against Atlanta. DeAndre Yedlin delivered the low cross, and Taylor finished easily past goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.
Despite adding a third goal on a deflection off Charlotte defender Adilson Malanda, manager Tata Martino left the 36-year-old Messi on the field in the late stages.
Messi repaid that faith in the 86th minute with yet another one-touch finish. All of his eight goals have come either from a first-time shot or a free kick.
—Field Level Media