Thousands of soccer fans filed into Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Thursday night as the world's best player and his Argentinian national team prepped for a Saturday showdown with rival Brazil.
Lionel Messi, the three-time defending FIFA player of the year, scored once on a header in the half-pitch intrasquad scrimmage as fans hung on his every move.
Messi, who stars for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga, did not disappoint, flashing the speed and power that have many in the sport heralding him as one of the best to ever play the game. He showed off the pinpoint accuracy of his feared left foot during a shooting drill that ended the practice session, beating the Argentina keeper on two shots that bent into the bottom right corner from about 20 yards.
The open practice was attended by several thousand fans, and tickets were distributed for free to Red Bulls season ticket holders. The practice, which ran from 7 pm to about 8:15 pm, was a warmup for Saturday's "friendly" at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
The Argentina-Brazil match, with Messi as its main draw, has been one of the hottest tickets so far this year. Tickets for the match were being sold on StubHub Thursday for up to $1000, with most lower level tickets in the $200 to $400 range.
More than 80,000 people are expected at the match between the South American rivals.
The 24-year-old scored 73 goals this year in 60 appearances, setting the single season record for goals scored in one European season. He also tallied 29 assists, and set the La Liga record for goals in a season.
Messi and Barcelona have won three Champions League titles since 2006.
The team seemed destined to clash with Real Madrid in this year's final of the Champions League, which is a tournament played by the top clubs in Europe each year based on the previous year's standings. But Barcelona was upset by eventually champion Chelsea, from London, and Real Madrid fell to runner-up Bayern Munich, which lost to Chelsea on penalty kicks on their home pitch in the final.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Argentina's opponent for the friendly at MetLife Stadium on Saturday.