Lionel Messi's stunning start to his life in the USA continued on Saturday, as the former Barcelona ace scored on his MLS debut to help Inter Miami beat New York Red Bulls 2-0.
The Argentina international may have started Saturday's game on the bench, but he played his part in helping Gerard Martino's side to record just their sixth league win of the campaign.
Inter Miami have now won nine matches in a row in all competitions, and the club's purple patch looks like continuing with Messi in his current form.
|What||USA MLS 2023|
|Where||USA & Canada|
|When||Saturday 25th February to Saturday 21st October (regular season) & Wednesday 25th October to Saturday 9th December (play-offs)|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming and Apple TV|
|Odds||FC Cincinnati 4/1, Los Angeles FC 13/2, Inter Miami 7/1, Philadelphia Union 9/1, St. Louis City SC 14/1|
Messi's impact on Inter Miami has been instant, and the club's owners will be licking their lips at what could unfold this season.
The veteran's arrival at the club is arguably the biggest sports deal in American history, which is some commitment considering the agreements that have gone before him.
Club chiefs hoped Messi could galvanize their team and turn them into contenders, and in less than two months, he has already started to drag his team forward.
In fact, drag is the wrong word, as there was nothing forced on Saturday when Messi scored in the 89th minute to wrap up his team's 2-0 success.
Diego Gomez had opened the scoring in the 37th minute, with former Barcelona ace Jordi Alba creating the opportunity.
With fans shouting for Messi's introduction, Martino turned to his star forward on the hour mark, and 29 minutes later, he produced another highlight reel moment to guide his team home.
Alba was involved in the build-up again, finding Messi in the box before he made an exquisite pass across the area to Benjamin Cremaschi. The youngster returned the ball back across goal to Messi, who tapped into an empty net to seal another fine win in what could be a momentous season for the club.
In one of the biggest stories in American sports this year, Messi is showcasing exactly why David Beckham and the other owners of Inter Miami worked so hard to sign him.
Messi has made a career out of breaking records and defying expectations, but at 36, the Rosario-born ace would have been forgiven for a slow start.
In less than two months, Messi has helped them win the Leagues Cup, while the playmaker has been integral in booking Miami's place in the final of the US Open Cup.
Before his arrival, Inter Miami were expected to sit towards the bottom of the table, but they now have genuine optimism that in the 11 games left, they can secure a play-off spot.
Martino's troops need to finish ninth in order to qualify for the post-season, and Messi and co are 11 points behind ninth-placed Chicago Fire.
For some, that will still be a step too far, but with Inter Miami now on the charge after a manic two months, the play-offs are not yet out of their reach.
If they were to make into the postseason, Messi's presence would clearly be a threat to all, and they are 7/1 to win the MLS Cup.
Inter Miami fans are dreaming of a potential treble this season, and after Messi's 11 goals and three assists in nine matches, it is easy to see why.
Everything the World Cup winner seems to touch at the moment turns to gold, but Martino has warned that his team needs to learn to succeed without him.
Martino's decision to start Messi on the bench is likely to not be a one-off, and he says his side needs to adapt and play with confidence, even with their star players sat on the bench.
He told reporters: "The importance is that we are going to have to get used to winning in these situations.
"Leo's going to miss at least three games. He's going to get called up by his national team and others, too, and we know the team needs to continue to win in these times.
"We controlled the match for large portions and took the lead. We needed to do this so that we knew we could win without him. The response was satisfactory."
Inter Miami are next in action on Thursday, as they host Nashville SC on home soil. Martino's side are 1/2 to pick up all three points, the draw is 10/3, while Nashville SC are considered 5/1 outsiders.