No Messi, no problem: Campana scores twice as Inter Miami beats Sporting KC

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — With Lionel Messi out of the lineup to play in a pair of World Cup qualifiers for reigning champion Argentina, Inter Miami got two goals from Leonardo Campana to beat Sporting Kansas City 3-2 on Saturday night.

Facundo Farias added the third goal for Miami (8-14-4), which remains 14th in the Eastern Conference table.

The match was a test for Miami, which is 11-0-1 in cup and MLS matches since Messi’s arrival with the club. He already has 11 goals and eight assists with the team. Miami was winless in 11 straight before Messi’s debut on July 21.

“Like I said (Friday), Leo’s absence was going to be felt,” Campana said in Spanish. “But he has instilled so much confidence among the players. We believe now and know what we are capable of. Very happy with the result and the three points.”

Messi scored the winning goal in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador on Thursday and has another national team commitment against Bolivia on Tuesday.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is scheduled to return to Miami for its next league match at Atlanta FC next Saturday.

“We all know that when he is here, we are all better,” Miami coach Tata Martino said in Spanish. “We are capable of winning any type of match. That said — for a group of players which works very hard and are teammates of the best player in the world, when he doesn’t play it is uplifting for them knowing they can win.”

The lack of Messi was evident in the stands. Although the crowd at DRV PNK Stadium sang throughout the match and cheered loudly after each goal, there were noticeable pockets of empty seats.

In addition to Messi, seven other Miami players were called by their national teams for qualifiers and missed the match.

Campana’s second goal in the 45th minute snapped a 1-1 tie. DeAndre Yedlin dribbled deep into the right wing area and centered a pass to a leaping Campana who headed it past Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia.

“I feel I have emerged from less to more during the course of the season,” Campana said. “At the beginning, things were not working out but with continued hard work we are now on the right path.”

Farias made it 3-1 with his goal in the 60th minute. Sergio Busquets’ free kick from midfield found an open Farias, who dribbled unchallenged into the penalty area and beat Melia with a right-footed shot from 15 yards.

Alan Pulido got Sporting KC (8-12-8) within a goal in the 78th minute.

“This win solidifies us, we know we have a good team,” Martino said. “We can continue getting results like we did tonight.”

Miami faced an early deficit, when Dániel Sallói scored nine minutes into the match. Goalkeeper Drake Callender deflected Felipe Gutierrez’s 25-yard shot but failed to clear it. Salloi found the loose ball on the edge of the 6-yard box and converted with a right-footed shot inside the right post.

Miami tied it on Campana’s penalty kick in the 25th minute. Melia fouled Campana near the 6-yard box when he struck the Miami striker around the neck area. Campana beat Melia with a shot to his left.