Inter Miami delivered the most impressive win of their Lionel Messi era, 3-1 over Major League Soccer champions Los Angeles FC on Sunday, with two assists from the Argentine boosting their playoff hopes.
Goals from Argentine forward Facundo Farias, Spanish full-back Jordi Alba and substitute Leonardo Campana of Ecuador earned Miami a statement victory that moves them within nine points of the playoff places with nine games remaining.
But the home fans left frustrated as last year's MLS Cup winners wasted a series of chances.
After surviving those early scares, Miami took the lead in the 14th minute when Tomas Aviles split the LAFC defence to find Farias who beat John McCarthy with a low shot on the slide.
LAFC paid the price for the wastefulness in front of goal in the 51st minute when Miami's former Barcelona trio combined in style.
Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets fed Messi who picked out the overlapping Alba and he burst into the box to score with a cool, left-footed finish.
Miami were in firm control and wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when Messi burst from midfield and slipped the ball outside to Campana who made no mistake with a curling finish.
Miami were bottom of the East and winless in 11 games in MLS before Messi's arrival and after winning the Leagues Cup, the Florida club have won two and drawn one in regular season action.
"It was a nice test for us to see where we stood, what we were able to do on a difficult ground against a very good opponent, the winners last year and we earned a very important victory for what is coming," Messi told broadcasters Apple TV.