In an evening brimming with anticipation, Lionel Messi graced the pitch once again after a hiatus of almost two weeks. However, his return was short-lived, as he couldn’t even make it to halftime.
Messi, the illustrious Argentine World Cup champion and seven-time Ballon d’Or laureate, was included in the starting lineup and gave it his all for a mere 37 minutes during Wednesday’s exhilarating 4-0 triumph against Toronto FC at DRV PNK Stadium.
The enigmatic Messi, who had missed two crucial Inter Miami fixtures and participated in just one of Argentina’s two World Cup qualifying matches this month, had been grappling with either a nagging right leg issue or sheer exhaustion following a grueling stretch since late July.
Inter Miami’s head coach, Tata Martino, disclosed that Messi had been assessed for a potential injury while with the Argentina national team, yet the scans conducted failed to reveal any signs of injury. Nevertheless, Messi was seen grimacing with discomfort, gingerly stretching his right leg around the midfield area. This discomfort became apparent shortly after he made a valiant charge toward the net, ultimately aborting the attempt without even taking a shot before being substituted.
Martino offered some insight after the match, stating, “He had an old injury that had been bothering him. The scans he had with the national team, didn’t show any injury. We still saved him to be safe. We don’t think he has a muscular injury. That’s also from a conversation I just had with him. But we have to continue being careful. And we’ll look at it the next few days.”
Messi’s departure, along with Jordi Alba, who also exited the match shortly before Messi, left fans in suspense, as both players are currently listed as day-to-day.
Inter Miami’s immediate focus now shifts to their upcoming match against Orlando City SC on Sunday, with their eyes set on the highly anticipated Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final against the formidable Houston Dynamo FC scheduled for September 27.
Embarking on a demanding stretch of six matches in just 17 days, Inter Miami faces an intense challenge ahead. Coach Martino clarified that Messi and Jordi Alba would be sidelined for the Orlando match but expressed optimism that their conditions are not serious, possibly attributing their struggles to fatigue rather than muscular injuries.
Despite Messi’s early exit, Inter Miami displayed their prowess against Toronto FC at DRV PNK Stadium. Facundo Farías broke the deadlock late in the first half, while Robert Taylor notched an impressive brace in the second half. Adding to the excitement, USMNT prospect Benjamin Cremaschi recorded his second goal of the season.
So, what led to Messi’s untimely departure from the Inter Miami match? In the 34th minute, Messi was seen tending to his right calf area, visibly signaling discomfort. Just two minutes later, he was making his way to the sidelines. Messi’s spot in the lineup was promptly taken by Robert Taylor, and he handed over the captain’s armband to DeAndre Yedlin, Inter Miami’s former captain. Unfortunately, this marked Messi’s third goalless appearance in 12 Inter Miami matches, with no assists to his name.
Despite the brevity of his performance, Messi displayed moments of brilliance, particularly during the initial 30 minutes of the game. His most captivating opportunity came when he launched a powerful right strike that narrowly missed connecting with a volleyed pass from Facundo Farías. The crowd’s excitement reached a fever pitch as Messi darted toward the right side of the net in pursuit of the volley from Farías.
Earlier in the match, Messi created an opening for himself and fired a left-footed shot towards the net, only to have it caught by Toronto FC’s vigilant goalkeeper in the 18th minute. In another sequence, Messi found himself ensnared by a cluster of Toronto players, with his shot deflecting off one of them, thus ending the threat.
Preceding the match, Coach Martino had hinted at monitoring both Messi and Jordi Alba’s playing time during the Toronto encounter. Alba was withdrawn from the game approximately a minute before Messi, displaying visible frustration as he took his place on the Inter Miami bench. While Messi was less expressive, it was evident that he was affected, whether by his calf, fatigue, or the coach’s decision.
Messi had enjoyed a brief respite before this match, having last played on September 7, when he delivered a stunning free-kick to secure Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador in a 2026 World Cup qualifying match held in Buenos Aires. This match marked his 12th appearance in 48 days, a remarkable stretch highlighted by Inter Miami’s triumphant Leagues Cup title.
Messi had sat out Inter Miami’s previous match, a 5-2 defeat to Atlanta United, as well as Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Bolivia on September 12.
The scoring in the match against Toronto FC was punctuated by Robert Taylor, who notched a brace in the game. Taylor’s second goal of the match was a remarkable right-footed strike that soared just above the head of Toronto’s goalkeeper, Tomás Romero, in the 86th minute. Additionally, Benjamin Cremaschi showcased his skills, capitalizing on a chance created by Robert Taylor, to extend Inter Miami’s lead to 3-0 in the 74th minute.
Robert Taylor had also opened the scoring early in the second half with a skillful dribble around the box, culminating in a precise right-footed strike that left Toronto FC’s goalkeeper, Tomás Romero, helpless.
Before the halftime whistle, Facundo Farías electrified the crowd by firing a right strike into the back of the net during extra time. This goal granted Inter Miami a 1-0 lead.
Messi’s night ended abruptly after just 36 minutes, leaving fans yearning for more. Making his return after missing two matches, the Inter Miami star had been grappling with either fatigue or a right calf injury throughout the month. His struggles became apparent during the 34th minute when he stretched his right leg, signaling discomfort. Moments later, Messi was heading towards the sidelines, making way for Robert Taylor, who inherited the captain’s armband from Messi.
During his brief stint on the pitch, Messi took three shots, but unfortunately, all three missed their mark. His most promising chance was a right-footed strike that sailed over the crossbar, originating from a volleyed pass by Facundo Farías. Earlier in the match, Messi’s left-footed effort was thwarted by Toronto FC’s goalkeeper in the 18th minute. In another sequence, he found himself surrounded by Toronto players, and his shot deflected off one of them, neutralizing the threat.
Despite Messi’s departure, the crowd’s fascination with his every touch remained undiminished.
In the early stages of the match, Toronto FC’s Deandre Kerr posed a considerable threat, unleashing two shots on goal in the 13th minute. Inter Miami, however, enjoyed a stroke of luck as Kerr’s initial shot was blocked by Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callendar, and his rebound effort ricocheted off the right post. One minute later, Inter Miami’s Josef Martinez narrowly missed a left-footed shot from the center of the box, sending it just over the crossbar.
Ten minutes into the game, Messi had a fleeting touch near the net, courtesy of DeAndre Yedlin, but Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio swiftly dispossessed him, denying him the opportunity. Additionally, Josef Martinez had a chance that went astray, and Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callendar nearly found himself out of position but managed to regain control of the situation.
The match remained level at 0-0 after the first 10 minutes, with several notable incidents highlighting the early exchanges.
The Inter Miami vs. Toronto FC clash at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida kicked off at 7:30 pm ET and was broadcast on Apple TV.
Before the match, Messi warmed up with his Inter Miami teammates, signifying his return to action after missing his last two games. The question on everyone’s mind was how much playing time Messi would receive, given his recent health concerns.
Predictions for the match were mixed among pundits. Jim Reineking, sports editor, anticipated a resounding 4-1 victory for Inter Miami, citing Toronto’s difficult season. Safid Deen, sports reporter, envisioned Messi scoring a goal and providing an assist in a convincing 4-0 win for Miami. Alicia DelGallo, senior editor, predicted a 3-1 victory for Inter Miami, with Messi playing a part for 30 minutes.
According to BetMGM, Inter Miami were heavy favorites at -350 to triumph over Toronto (+775), with a draw priced at +475. The over/under for goals scored was set at 3.5 (-115).
Inter Miami’s coach, Tata Martino, remained non-committal regarding the availability of Messi and Jordi Alba for the Toronto match. He explained, “Messi and Alba will train in the full session today with the team, and after that we’ll see if they’re available to play and to what extent.” Martino acknowledged the demanding schedule ahead, with six matches in 18 days, including the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.
As for Inter Miami’s standing in the MLS playoff race, they entered the match with eight games left in the season, seven of which were in MLS play. With 28 points through 27 games, they were trailing the ninth-place team, D.C. United, by seven points. Further losses would likely be detrimental to Inter Miami’s aspirations for an MLS postseason berth.
Away from the field, Messi stirred up quite a buzz when he shared a snapshot of a pizza he enjoyed via Instagram. The “Don Antonio” pizza boasted a tantalizing combination of mozzarella, tomato sauce, tomato slices, onion, anchovies, and olives. While some were taken aback by this peculiar choice, it led to a surge in business for the Argentinian pizza restaurant, Banchero Miami. The eatery even embraced its newfound fame, updating its Instagram bio to proudly declare itself as “@leomessi favorite pizza!”
With their sights set on the U.S. Open Cup title, Inter Miami has a lot on their plate. Balancing the need to rest Messi, the quest for a second championship next week, and the fight for a spot in the MLS playoff race has become a juggling act for the team. Their upcoming schedule includes two MLS games, with the second being an away fixture against their arch-rivals, Orlando City, on Sunday.
After securing the Leagues Cup title in July by defeating Nashville, Inter Miami now has a shot at claiming a second championship, with Messi leading the charge.
Despite their focus on the U.S. Open Cup, Coach Martino emphasized their commitment, stating, “It doesn’t mean we won’t go for it, but it’s true that we’re focused on the 27th.”
In his previous match with Inter Miami, Messi may not have scored, but he contributed with two assists in a 3-1 victory against LAFC on September 4 in Los Angeles. Inter Miami also managed a 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City on September 9 while Messi was away representing Argentina.
Inter Miami’s remaining 2023 schedule includes several challenging fixtures:
- September 16: Away at Atlanta United, 5 p.m. ET
- September 20: Home vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- September 24: Away at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
- September 27: Home vs. Houston Dynamo FC (U.S. Open Cup final), 8:30 p.m. ET
- September 30: Home vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- October 4: Away at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- October 7: Home vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET
- October 18: Home vs. Charlotte FC, 8 p.m. ET
- October 21: Away at Charlotte FC, 6 p.m. ET
For fans eager to catch the action, all of Inter Miami’s games are available to watch via the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, with the exception of the U.S. Open Cup final on September 27, which can be streamed on the CBS Sports Golazo Network. Additionally, if Messi leads Inter Miami to the MLS playoffs, some of those postseason matches might be broadcast on FOX.
MLS Matchday 33 featured an array of exciting matches:
- Charlotte FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- D.C. United vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Inter Miami CF vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- CF Montréal vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET
- New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- New York Red Bulls vs. Austin FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Houston Dynamo FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Sporting Kansas City vs. Nashville SC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- St. Louis City SC vs. Los Angeles FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders, 9:30 p.m. ET
- Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas, 9:30 p.m. ET
- Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Minnesota United, 10:30 p.m. ET
- Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. ET
All these thrilling encounters were available for streaming via the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
In the world of soccer, Netflix has generated excitement by releasing a documentary series centered around David Beckham. This project, aptly named “Beckham,” delves into the life and career of the soccer icon. The series explores how the former English captain, who is also the current co-owner of Inter Miami, captured international attention with his electrifying style of play, groundbreaking fashion choices, and his captivating romance with pop icon Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham.
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