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⚽ Good morning to everyone but especially …
LIONEL MESSI AND INTER MIAMI
I told you yesterday you wouldn’t want to miss Lionel Messi and Inter Miami against FC Cincinnati, and I hope you listened because this one blew my (admittedly high) expectations out of the water. Spurred on by two assists by Messi, Inter Miami capped a thrilling comeback with a penalty kick shootout win to advance to the U.S. Open Cup final.
- The hosts took the lead via Lucho Acosta‘s deflected shot in the 18th minute and doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute when USMNT up-and-comer Brandon Vazquez rifled one home.
- Then Messi and his teammates — specifically Leonardo Campana — went to work. In the 68th minute, Messi curled in a free kick that Campana headed in. Then in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the two connected again with Messi lifting an inch-perfect ball and Campana coolly nodding home.
- Inter Miami took the lead in the third minute of extra time via Josef Martínez, but Yuya Kubo answered to force penalties.
- Both teams converted their first four kicks before Drake Callender denied Nick Hagglund and Benjamin Cremaschi scored to send Inter Miami through.
- Inter Miami will host the Houston Dynamo at DRV PNK Stadium in the final on Sept. 27.
The Messi experiment is exceeding the hype. He’s— Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were in attendance — and dominating with 10 goals and three assists in eight matches.
Oh yeah, and he’s winning. Five days ago, Inter Miami had never won a trophy. Since then, they’ve won one and advanced to a final for an opportunity to win another. If that’s not Messi Magic, I’m not sure how else you describe it.
😊 Honorable mentions
😦 And not such a good morning for …
TREY LANCE AND THE 49ERS
Throughout Trey Lance‘s NFL career, the question has been: “When will San Francisco turn to him?”
Then he couldn’t unseat Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter in 2021 (while) and watched Garoppolo pilot the team to the NFC Championship Game. The next year, he and watched Garoppolo and Brock Purdy bring the team to yet another conference title game.
The question slowly but surely turned from when Lance will take over to if Lance will ever take over.
Wednesday, we got our answer: It’s not happening. San Francisco named Sam Darnold as Purdy’s backup —— and is just two-and-a-half years after moving heaven and earth to draft him No. 3 overall. Lance reportedly did not attend practice Wednesday.
- The 49ers have been one of the NFL’s best teams even without Lance contributing much, but this is still a historically huge miss: The Niners (and more) to the Dolphins to move up from 12th to third in 2021.
- The players Miami got out of that deal? Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill (via trade), Bradley Chubb (via trade) and Channing Tindall. Sorry, 49ers fans.
Lance is still just 23 years old — even younger in terms of football experience as he has started just four NFL games and played just one game in his final season at North Dakota State after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed almost the entire season to the spring of 2021.
As such, there might be a team willing to take a chance on him. Jordan Dajani has, including …
- “The Vikings and 49ers had discussions about Lance leading up to the draft at the NFL Scouting Combine. … Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings and both sides don’t appear to be rushing to the negotiating table before the start of the regular season … It wouldn’t be the worst strategy for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to bring in Lance and allow him to serve in a backup role while learning Kevin O’Connell‘s offense as a potential successor to Cousins for 2024.”
😟 Not so honorable mentions
👀 ACC renews talks to add Cal, Stanford, SMU
If there’s one thing we know about realignment, it’s that we don’t know anything. Just weeks after ACC expansion talks ended, they have restarted with the leagueCalifornia, Stanford and SMU.
- A group of conference presidents met Wednesday to discuss potential financial models for those three additions.
- According to reports, all three teams would come at a discount: Cal and Stanford would take a reduced share of the additional revenue their additions would unlock, while SMU is willing to take no broadcast revenue for up to its first seven years.
- A revenue pool related to success initiatives is among the ideas that could be considered. The ACC recently made amendments to its revenue model to appease programs like Clemson and Florida State.
- A decision could come within the next week.
Any ACC expansion requires at least a 75% approval, meaning at least 12 of the league’s 15 teams must vote in the affirmative. The conference failed to hit that mark earlier this month with North Carolina, NC State, Florida State and Clemson. And yes, if Cal and Stanford do indeed leave, the Pac-12 would be down to a Pac-2: Washington State and Oregon State.
And yes, if that happens, the ACC should change its name to Anywhere in the Country Conference. Atlantic Coast Conference simply wouldn’t do.
💸 Auston Matthews signs record extension with Leafs
Auston Matthews isn’t going anywhere, and the Maple Leafs are paying him top dollar to ensure it. The 25-year-old superstar signed a, making him the highest-paid NHL player on an annual basis ($13.25 million).
- The accolades are already mounting: four All-Star selections, one Hart Trophy (MVP), one Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player) and two Maurice Richard Trophies (top goal scorer).
- Matthews is also already tied for fifth in franchise history with 299 career goals.
- Matthews still has one year left on his current deal, so this extension keeps him in Toronto through 2027-28. With this latest deal, he’ll surpass Nathan MacKinnon ($12.6 million per year) for the highest average annual value.
⚾ What’s next for White Sox?
It’s a new era for the White Sox after the team, and it may not take long to know who’s heading it. Per reports, assistant GM Chris Getz will be elevated to GM, and former Royals GM Dayton Moore could have a role on the South Side as well. Still, no formal announcements are expected for several weeks.
Regardless of who ultimately leads the way, they have a lot to do. R.J. Anderson broke down. If a complete teardown is in order, three big names could be moved:
- “CF Luis Robert Jr.: He’s a star, an all-around contributor who plays a good center field, signed for submarket prices through his age-29 campaign. Of course, those same reasons make him someone the White Sox may want to hold onto, lest they outright punt on being competitive at any point between now and the 2027 season.”
- “DH Eloy Jiménez: He has top-notch raw strength and a track record of above-average hitting. Jiménez isn’t much of a fielder — indeed, he’s a risk unto himself out there — but he’s a legitimate power source who’ll play all of next season at age-27.”
- “LHP Aaron Bummer: He’s had a rough year from a surface-level perspective, but there are positive underlying indicators that should make him an interesting buy-low candidate for a team seeking relief help.”
📺 What we’re watching Thursday
🏈 Steelers at Falcons, 7:30 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Aces at Sky, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
⚽ Reds at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. on FS1