Despite Lionel Messi’s return from injury, Inter Miami lost 1-0 against FC Cincinnati on Saturday and are mathematically out of contention to enter the North American League (MLS) playoffs.
Messi, who started as a substitute, came on the field in the 55th minute but could not prevent FC Cincinnati from winning with a goal from fellow Argentine Alvaro Barreal in the 78th minute at the DRV PNK stadium. in Fort Lauderdale (outside of Miami).
Inter, who need to win to ensure they stay alive, remain in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 33 points.
Although there are still two games left, the team led by Gerardo Martino is seven points in ninth place, the last one that gives access to the playoffs, held by DC United.
Messi, who returned after a four-game absence, looked out of rhythm and could not be Miami’s savior this time, suffering its first defeat in 13 games in which it counted on the pitch with albiceleste captain.
Inter enjoyed many scoring opportunities, especially three shots on the posts in the first 24 minutes, but in the second half they suffered from fatigue against a Cincinnati that, although it was classified who as the overall leader, is very motivated to go out on the road. to be a poisoned rival in the playoffs.
Upon his arrival in mid-July, the Rosario star turned Inter, then the worst team in MLS, into a formidable team and led them to the first trophy in their history in the Leagues Cup with his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba .
But the physical problems he began to suffer in September, together with other teammates like Alba in a tight schedule, led to Inter first being left without a second title in the final of the US Open Cup because the games are broken. illusions of qualifying for the postseason.
Although they got three points against Cincinnati, Inter must win their last two games against Charlotte and hope to benefit from the results of the other five teams.
Out of rhythm
With Messi sitting on the Miami bench, next to the box of celebrities such as Argentine producer Bizarrap and the singers Nicki Nicole and Peso Pluma, Inter started the match with almost complete control of the ball and the best chance in the first half.
In nine minutes, a corner kick ended at the feet of young Argentine center back Tomás Avilés, who finished with a powerful volley that crashed against the crossbar.
Then the Venezuelan striker Josef Martínez shot off the woodwork from the left corner of the visiting area.
In the 24th minute, Martínez himself made Benjamin Cremaschi leave him in a fight against goalkeeper Roman Celentano but the promising Argentine midfielder also hit a shot against the crossbar.
Despite the arrival of heavy rain, Inter fans began to demand that Messi, who had been restlessly watching the game standing, come off the pitch.
Before the end of the first half, Montreal already had a two-goal advantage over the Portland Timbers, a result that forced Inter to win to stay alive for another week.
With his team on the verge of elimination, Messi warmed up at the start of the second half, along with two saves from his goalkeeper, Drake Callender.
Amidst general applause, the Argentine star took the pitch in the 55th minute and just four minutes later he enjoyed a free kick in an unbeatable position which he sent over on the crossbar.
Inter had to advance in positions and left the rearguard free for counterattacks by Cincinnati, who also threw two balls at the posts from the boots of Gabonese Aaron Boupendza.
With the game open the last burst came from Cincinnati, taking advantage of a field loss by Busquets.
Japan’s Yuya Kubo shot from outside the area and Callender’s clearance was taken advantage of by Barreal to make it 1-0 and silence the Inter stand.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Messi looked for an equalizer with two more free kicks but ended up seeing his team end in resignation.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will join the Argentine national team for the World Cup qualifying matches against Paraguay on October 12 and Peru on the 17th.