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U.S. Open Cup final, Inter Miami vs. Houston Dynamo picks, predictions: Messi concerns don’t bother experts

On Wednesday, Sept. 27th, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final will take place at DRV PNK Stadium between Inter Miami and the Houston Dynamo. You can catch all the coverage on CBS Sports Network and across CBS Sports Golazo Network and Paramount+. It’s a chance for Miami to win their second trophy this season, while the Dynamo seek their first piece of silverware since 2018 when they defeated the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup. Two teams that have improved drastically this season, but in different ways, are meeting in U.S. Soccer’s oldest competition.

The Dynamo have built this unit over the past few seasons by recruiting midfielder Hector Herrera and convincing him of the project, then adding an experienced coach in Ben Olsen to help guide the team to the top of the Western Conference. Miami’s transformation was overnight, with Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets all joining forces in MLS under the coaching prowess of Tata Martino. They enjoyed immediate success, winning the Leagues Cup, and have only lost one game since the trio joined. Though now the injury bug has hit and Alba is doubtful to make the match and Martino says the team will make a late decision on whether Messi can go

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U.S. Open Cup final picks

What is the U.S. Open Cup?

One of the most storied competitions in U.S. Soccer, all teams in the soccer pyramid are able to compete which can lead to impressive upsets. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds had a few of those this season knocking out the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew in back-to-back rounds with shutout victories. Founded in 1914, the Open Cup has mostly been dominated by MLS clubs since the league’s founding in 1996 but the Rochester Rhinos were a team that was able to get past that domination, winning the competition in 1999 as a lower division side. Sacramento Republic was also able to make it to the final of the 2022 edition of the tournament where they ultimately fell to reigning champions Orlando City SC. The Herons will look to keep the title in Florida but they won’t have an easy time doing it.

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How did these teams get here?

Inter Miami: While a lot of the team’s recent success has been down to Messi and the new summer recruits, this Open Cup run has been a true team contribution. Former manager Phil Neville helped them grind out results after entering in the third round. It wasn’t an easy run beginning with a penalty shootout victory over Miami FC of the USL Championship, but all that matters is the end result that got the Herons to the final as two assists from Messi led to two goals from Leonardo Campana before squeaking past FC Cincinnati on penalties. While Messi could be an injury doubt for the final, even when he hasn’t featured, players like Campana and Facundo Farias have stepped up to ensure that this Miami side can still score goals. Facing a Dynamo team that are among  the best defenses in the league, the Herons will need all the attacking help that they can get.

Houston Dynamo: Coming off of a relatively easy win over Real Salt Lake, the Dynamo have cruised in this competition scoring 12 goals and allowing two during their four-match run so far.  With a midfield duo of Adalberto Carrasquilla and Herrera, the Dynamo are able to control most games but this will be quite the challenge against the Herons. While the Dynamo are good enough in midfield to counter Miami and Herrera has faced off with Messi in La Liga and at the World Cup, if the match gets into a shootout, they have yet to be in a pressure cooker this season. The Herons are already well equipped to handle penalty shootouts, needing them in both Leagues Cup and Open Cup and they also have a coach who knows how to navigate the competition. Olsen has won Open Cup as a player and a coach and now is looking to add to his triumph with D.C. United.

Will Messi play in the final?

Against Toronto FC, Messi and Alba were withdrawn in the first half due to fatigue according to Martino but with the Miami boss saying things like, “[Messi] isn’t able to play freely.” This raises the concern levels around if he’ll feature. To win Leagues Cup, the Herons had to lean heavily on the former Barcelona trio but they could use at least one more vintage performance this season. The duo were rested for Miami’s Sunday MLS match against Orlando City (1-1 draw) but while Martino is doing what he can to downplay injury concerns, there is more worry than the team would like to admit with their biggest match in history right over the horizon. Joining Box 2 Box on Golazo Network, Felipe Cardenas suggested the issue is primarily with Messi’s right hamstring.

Alba is a doubt for the final which could see Noah Allen feature as the starting left back but while the 19-year-old would bring a different look than Alba, it’s still something that could be a boost for Miami if Martino balances the lineup correctly to accommodate a more defensive-minded player at the back. Messi will be a game-time decision as scarring due to a previous hamstring injury has flared up which could see him start the match from the bench. Martino stated that if the match wasn’t a final he wouldn’t risk Messi but this is a situation where the Herons will throw everything at the match that they can.

How to watch

  • Date: Wednesday, Sept. 27 | Time: 8:30 p.m.
  • Location: DRV PNK Stadium — Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • TV: CBS Sports Network  | Live stream: Paramount+

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