Major League Soccer

Lionel Messi smashes MLS and personal records with goal, 5 assists in a single half

Lionel Messi smashes MLS and personal records with goal, 5 assists in a single half

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez celebrate Messi’s goal in Inter Miami’s demolition of the New York Red Bulls on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has been tearing Major League Soccer to pieces, and with every passing game, his exploits become more magnificent, more comical, and, in a way, more … mundane.

He is racking up goals and assists week after week, at silly rates, so silly that each successive game feels increasingly unfair and decreasingly notable.

But Messi's latest, Saturday in South Florida against the New York Red Bulls, was unlike any he or MLS had ever produced before.

Inter Miami trailed 1-0 at halftime. By the 81-minute mark, Messi had scored a goal and assisted five others.

The five assists were a single-game MLS record. The six goal contributions were a single-game MLS record.

Both were also the most that Messi had registered in a single game throughout his glittering, unrivaled career. (His previous single-game assist record was three.)

And he did it all in a single half — in less than 33 minutes, to be precise.

His first assist was a relatively light lift. Inter Miami's newest signing, Matías Rojas, took a Messi pass, beat a Red Bull, and picked out the top corner from 25 yards away.

But Messi's second assist, also to Rojas, was devilish:

His fourth was ridiculous, a testament to both his brilliance and the inferiority of his opponents.

The Red Bulls gifted him time and space throughout the second half. In the 75th minute, Messi beat an entire midfield line with a single cut, scampered into gaping green grass, then played a one-two-three with Luis Suarez at the top of the box to create Suarez's second goal of the night.

Messi also assisted Suarez's first, some eight minutes earlier.

And roughly five minutes after the second, Suarez exploited an out-of-sync defensive line again. Messi found him. Suarez rounded a hapless goalkeeper, completed his hat trick, and lifted Inter Miami to a 6-1 lead.

Oh, and Messi had also scored a goal among the five assists. He and Suarez pounced on a Red Bulls giveaway in the defensive third. Each only needed one touch.

The six goal contributions brought Messi to an absurd 22 on the season — in seven-and-a-half MLS games. That's nearly three goal contributions per 90 minutes.

He is nearly halfway to both the single-season MLS assist record (26) and the goal-plus-assist record (49) — in early May, and despite missing four games due to rest or injury.

He may not rewrite every line in the league's record book, because he'll step away for a month beginning in June for the 2024 Copa América. He might ultimately play only 25 or so of Inter Miami's 34 regular-season MLS games.

But he is ripping up the league at rates never before seen.

He is also creating goals at unprecedented rates even for him, even at age 36 going on 37.

MLS statisticians are generous with their awarding of assists, but even if you go by the global definition, Messi is now at 2.53 non-penalty goals plus assists per 90 minutes, on pace to shatter his personal single-season record of 1.80, set at Barcelona in La Liga in 2012-13, per FBref.

Needless to say, he leads MLS in both goals and assists, despite missing those few games. And Inter Miami stands atop the Eastern Conference roughly one-third of the way through the regular season.

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