With all respect to the rest of Argentina's very talented national team, Friday's 5-0 win against Panama was all about one man.
Leo Messi, probably the greatest player of this generation and in the discussion for best ever, played his first competitive match in the United States and Chicago's Soldier Field got to play host.
Messi missed Argentina's Copa America Centenario opener against Chile on Monday due to a back injury suffered in the lead up to the tournament. That meant Chicago got to witness his debut, even if it came off the bench.
Messi didn't disappoint the crowd of 53,885 fans. After coming on in the 62nd minute, Messi scored seven minutes later. Gonzalo Higuain elegantly blocked a clearance with his face to spring Messi for an open chance in the box, which he put away.
Then Messi got fouled just outside the Panama box. Initially most of the fans in the stadium jeered that someone hacked down the beloved superstar. However, it offered another opportunity for Messi to shine.
The ball was just to the right of Jaime Penedo’s goal. It was a great spot for the left-footed Messi to go for goal and that’s exactly what he did. Penedo never had a chance and the crowd erupted again.
As if that wasn’t enough, Messi showed his trademark ball control in tight spaces to free himself in the box while under pressure to finish off his hat trick.
Turns out Messi was worth all the chants for his name. Those started in the 23rd minute, with the crowd hoping to urge Argentina manager Gerardo Martino to sub on Messi. Then it started up again, and again and again. Once Messi starting scoring, the chant of his name was no longer calling for him to come in, but was now one of admiration.
All of a sudden the initial disappointment that Messi didn’t start went away. Argentina manager Gerardo Martino said on the day before the match that Messi would play, but that became in doubt when he wasn’t listed in the starting lineup.
“I never thought that Leo would not be playing,” Martino said through a translator. “I thought he would play about 30 minutes and he did.”
Panama was playing down a man since the 31st minute due to a second yellow card to Anibal Godoy. As Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez said, his team was tired and then "the monster” Messi came on, which was a recipe for disaster.
“Messi scores and this makes us feel more tired,” Gomez said. “If you make a mistake and Messi is there, he’s going to score.”
He did score. Three times. In Chicago. In a competitive match. That’s how legends are made.