Inter Miami vs Charlotte FC | Best Bet For Lionel Messi’s Friday Game
Hector Vivas/Getty. Pictured: Lionel Messi.
Inter Miami vs Charlotte FC Odds
|Inter Miami Odds||-225|
|Charlotte FC Odds||+550|
|Over / Under|
-188 / +140
Lionel Messi looks to continue his storybook start to life in America when Inter Miami welcome Charlotte FC for a Leagues Cup quarterfinal on Friday night.
Messi has scored seven goals to tie for the Golden Boot lead in the tournament, including two each in his three starts after he came off the bench in his Miami debut.
Meanwhile, Charlotte are the rare MLS team that have had to play road warrior in this tournament, getting past Cruz Azul on penalties in a second-round game played in Dallas and rallying to defeat Houston 2-1 on the road in the round of 16. Charlotte are also coming off a day's less rest than Miami.
This is these teams' first meeting of the season. They'll meet twice more in the league, though their first match originally scheduled for Aug. 20 has been postponed because one of these teams will have a conflict with either the Leagues Cup final or third-place match.
The thing about trying to determine who Miami are now is that it's not just Messi who has been added to the fold, and it's not all happening at the same time.
Jordi Alba and Diego Gomez were the latest to make their Herons debuts when Miami escaped Dallas by winning the tiebreak following a 4-4 draw.
Alba in particular was extremely influential, providing a pair of assists before Messi scored his second goal of the game on a late free kick to level the match.
But Alba also left Dallas a lot of space to exploit in the process. That could influence manager Tata Martino to switch to a three-center-back system that would free Messi's former Barcelona teammate to do more of the same without leaving his defense quite so open.
We could also see Leonardo Campana make his first start alongside Messi after Josef Martinez has looked less impressive in each subsequent game alongside his new superstar teammate. If you're willing to risk that Martino makes that swap, then Campana could provide good betting value as an anytime goal scorer.
If you were going to choose an MLS club to halt Miami's run of taking advantage of generous defenses, it would not be Charlotte FC.
The Crown have conceded an MLS-worst 40 goals in league play this season, and they've only been marginally better in this quarterfinal run, conceding five times in four matches.
On the other hand, maybe what Dallas showed is that the best way to beat Lionel Messi in MLS may actually be to outscore him.
FCD couldn't quite achieve that — hurt in part by Messi's brilliance and in part by a stupefying own goal off the head of Dallas defender Marco Farfan from a Miami corner that cut the deficit to 4-3. But you could argue Charlotte under Christian Lattanzio — whose tactics follow the ball-dominant City Football Group model — is the most competent attacking side Miami has faced.
The Crown have found the net multiple times in seven of their last 11 games in all competitions. Although to be fair, Houston gifted them both goals in Charlotte's 2-1 round of 16 win in a one-minute stretch that has to be seen to be believed.
Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC
Betting Pick & Prediction
Until sportsbooks wise up to the oddity of the corner kick market with Miami — or until the Herons' pattern of play with Messi changes — the highest-confidence bet on an MLS or MLS-related game with Messi playing is going to be fading the Herons in the corner kicks market.
Since Messi has come into the fold, Miami have not played a single game in which they led their opponent in corner kicks. In Sunday's draw, they tied 1-1 despite playing the majority of the second half from a trailing position and putting Dallas under consistent pressure.
The reason is that the Herons' understandable first instinct in the attacking half is to try and find Messi, rather than beat a defender around the byline. If you watched the second half against Dallas, you'd notice Jordi Alba in particular kept cutting in from the left when he got in a promising wide position rather than trying to take the ball wide and cross.
If Dallas hadn't grabbed a two-goal lead and therefore ceded the attacking duties to Miami, I feel very confident they would've finished the game with more corners. There was a point early in the game when FCD led the Herons 7-0 in crosses, which is the stat that correlates to the corners market even better than chance creation.
And yet when you look at the three-way corner kick line, Charlotte are heavy, heavy underdogs at +475 and an implied 17,4% probability, for a wager that has cashed in 6-of-8 games between these teams in the tournament.
Most books aren't giving you the chance to play a three-way line for most corners or an Asian handicap on corners. And I'm not confident this market will last, however. So if it's not accessible to you — or if you have to wait until closer to match time — I also like playing Charlotte's team total above 1.5 goals at +275 odds and an implied 26.7% probability.
Messi or not, Miami continue to remain vulnerable defensively and is going to concede multiple goals at home sooner or later, which still might not be enough to beat them. Orlando and Cruz Azul each should've scored twice in their games against the Herons this tournament.
This wager also doubles as a hedge against the corners bet, since the most likely way Miami finishes with more corners than Charlotte is if they fall behind in a big way and have to deviate from the "Find Messi" Plan A.