Lionel Messi’s Return to Miami: Captivating Substitute Performance against Cincinnati

ESPN News ServicesOct 7, 2023, 08:57 PM ET3 Minute Read

Is Messi prioritizing Argentina over Miami after international call-up?

The Futbol Americas duo discuss Lionel Messi’s international call-up despite his recent absence for Inter Miami due to injury.

Lionel Messi returned to the field for Inter Miami for the first time in five matches, coming on as a substitute in Saturday’s crucial MLS match against FC Cincinnati at home.

Despite starting on the bench at DRV PNK Stadium, Messi entered the game in the 55th minute, replacing Tomás Avilés. With the score tied 0-0, Miami needed a goal to stay in the race for the MLS playoffs.

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The 36-year-old Argentine forward has missed five out of Inter Miami’s last six matches, as well as one match for the national team, due to an aggravated scar tissue injury in his leg. Since his 37-minute appearance against Toronto FC on September 20, when he had to be substituted due to the injury, Messi has been sidelined.

Throughout this period, Miami has continuously assessed Messi’s availability on a game-by-game basis. However, he trained fully with his Miami teammates on Thursday and Friday, indicating his readiness to return.

Miami has struggled in Messi’s absence, failing to win in three MLS games and losing the U.S. Open Cup final to the Houston Dynamo.

Messi has scored 11 goals in 12 matches for Inter Miami. The team has a record of 8-0-4 when he plays, including the victorious Leagues Cup campaign, as well as a U.S. Open Cup semifinal appearance. In contrast, Inter Miami has a record of 1-3-2 in the six matches without Messi since his arrival.

Miami’s downturn in form without their star player has severely impacted its chances of qualifying for the MLS playoffs.

With three games remaining, including the Cincinnati match, Miami currently sits in 14th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The top nine teams qualify for the postseason, leaving Miami with a challenging five-point gap to overcome in order to secure a playoff spot. However, they do have the advantage of having played one less game than their nearest competitors, CF Montreal.

Despite ongoing concerns about his fitness, Messi has been called up by Argentina for the World Cup qualifying matches against Paraguay on Thursday and Peru on October 17.


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