Messi returns, Inter Miami rout Toronto to continue push for MLS playoff spot.
Lionel Messi exited a match with a leg injury, but Inter Miami still won 4-0. Messi's status is uncertain.
Lionel Messi made his return to Inter Miami's lineup on Wednesday night, but his comeback was cut short due to a lower-leg ailment. Despite his early exit, Inter Miami went on to win 4-0 against Toronto, bringing them within five points of securing a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer.
Robert Taylor, who replaced Messi, had an impressive performance with two goals and an assist. However, all attention was on Messi's injury. The 36-year-old had already missed two recent matches, one for his club and another for Argentina's national team, citing fatigue as the reason. Now, it seems that Messi has suffered some form of injury.
The game was tied when Messi was substituted, and he left the field before halftime after spending a few minutes on the bench. This injury came as a double blow for Inter Miami, as Jordi Alba, another key player, also had to leave the match in the 34th minute. Coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino stated that the team will evaluate both players in the coming days but did not provide any specific details.
Facundo Farias and Benjamin Cremaschi scored the other goals for Inter Miami in the second half. Messi had a couple of chances during the game but appeared to abruptly stop running after entering the Toronto box. He seemed disengaged afterwards, even taking off his captain's armband and attempting a long pass while still wearing it. He eventually unlaced his cleats, removed his shin guards, and handed the captain's band to DeAndre Yedlin, who was the team's captain before Messi joined in July.
This match marked the beginning of a challenging stretch for Inter Miami, with six games scheduled in 17 days. They will face Orlando next, followed by the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston on September 27. This will be followed by three more MLS matches in quick succession. The team's performance during this demanding period will be even more challenging without Messi.
Despite their current position in the standings, Inter Miami now has control over their playoff destiny. If they win all their remaining matches, a feat that seemed unlikely before Messi's arrival, they will secure a spot in the playoffs.
Prior to the match against Atlanta, Inter Miami had an unbeaten streak of 12 matches since Messi joined the team in July. They had a record of 8 wins, 4 draws, and advanced in the Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup through penalty shootouts. Messi has been instrumental in this success, scoring 11 goals and providing 8 assists in his 12 appearances for the team.
In conclusion, Messi's early exit due to injury raises concerns for Inter Miami, especially during a challenging stretch of matches. However, the team's recent success and control over their playoff destiny offer hope for a strong finish to the season.