In a match that saw the return of Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba to Inter Miami’s starting lineup, the team faced a challenging encounter against Toronto FC. Both players had missed previous fixtures, with fatigue cited as the primary reason for their absence. However, their return to action was short-term, as they both left the field due to physical tiredness during the game.
Messi and Alba did not make the trip for Inter Miami’s previous match, a 5-2 loss at Atlanta United FC. Despite not appearing injured or involved in heavy challenges, it became evident during the match against Toronto FC, that they were not at their physical fitness.
Inter Miami Coach Statement:
Inter Miami’s head coach, Gerardo Martino, explained, “They trained normally, and we felt like they were ready to play.” He added, “I don’t believe it’s anything new or anything worse than what they had before. It’s fatigue. We don’t think it’s a muscular stiffness or injury. Martino’s insights came after a conversation with Messi, who confirmed the nature of his fatigue.
Both Messi and Alba went straight to the bench rather than the locker room after leaving the field, signaling that their conditions may not have been severe. However, Miami faced a setback when Facundo Farías scored a goal shortly after their departures, giving the home team a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Toronto’s Robert Taylor then scored two impressive goals, sandwiched between a Benjamin Cremaschi strike in the second half, securing a 3-0 victory.
Messi had shown glimpses of his brilliance early in the match, nearly scoring with a far-post volley in the 23rd minute. However, it became evident later that he was struggling with a physical issue, leading to his substitution for Robert Taylor. Alba had left the field just four minutes before Messi, compounding Miami’s challenges.
The match also witnessed Toronto making two substitutions before Messi and Alba’s exits, with Victor Vasquez being forced off in the 12th minute due to injury. His replacement, Brandon Servania, also suffered an apparent knee injury just 14 minutes later.
Before being substituted, Messi was seen dealing with a leg issue, visibly stretching his right leg during play. He eventually removed his captain’s armband and waited for play to stop before unlacing his cleats, lowering his socks, and taking off his shin guards.
Messi had missed his previous two matches, one for his club and the other for the national team, due to fatigue-related issues. He was not available for any clarification after the match.
The encounter against Toronto was the first of six matches for Inter Miami in a span of 17 days, reflecting a demanding schedule. This packed fixture list includes games against Orlando, Houston in the Open Cup, New York City FC, Chicago Fire FC, and FC Cincinnati. The team faces the challenge of managing player fatigue while aiming to secure a playoff spot.
Messi had made 11 appearances for Inter Miami, primarily in Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup competitions, before this match. In those appearances, he had contributed significantly with 11 goals and five assists, including one goal with two assists in three MLS matches.
Messi and Alba’s return to Inter Miami’s lineup was marred by fatigue-related setbacks, resulting in their early exits from the match against Toronto FC. As the team navigates a demanding schedule, managing player fitness and recovery will be crucial in their quest for a playoff spot.
Despite the setback, Messi’s impact on the team has been evident, and Inter Miami will look to regroup and continue their pursuit of success in the coming matches.