By Gray Whitebloom
Lionel Messi is known to play the game at his own pace but, even for the walking magician, he was notably still in the first half of Inter Miami’s 4-0 win over Toronto FC.
Half an hour into Thursday’s match, with the game still goalless, Messi not only stopped (which was not entirely unusual) but began to gingerly extend his leg while the ball was in play. The 36-year-old had removed his captain’s armband before the referee blew his whistle, walking towards DeAndre Yedlin and limping off the field after 37 minutes.
Tata Martino had already been forced to remove Jordi Alba, Messi’s former teammate at Barcelona, who also arrived midway through the MLS season, before turning to Robert Taylor in his skipper’s place.
Taylor scored twice as Miami won 4-0 in Messi’s absence, but Martino would probably feel more comfortable if this year’s Ballon d’Or favorite returned to form rather than relying on a striker who has struggled to come off the bench in England’s tenth round. level.
When will Inter Miami face Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final?
InterMiami will line up for the club’s first-ever US Open Cup final against Dynamo on Wednesday, September 27 at 8:30pm ET, which equates to 1:30am on Thursday, September 28 for UK viewers.
Wherever you are looking, the final comes just seven days after Messi failed to complete the first half of Miami’s win over Toronto.
Miami travels to Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium this weekend for the cup final, one of a dizzying six games in 17 days for the fresh-faced franchise. However, the powers that be in South Beach are keenly interested in Messi’s availability for the upcoming showpiece, with the possibility of a second trophy in as many months after winning the Leagues Cup in August.
Inter Miami calendar
Will Lionel Messi be fit for the US Open Cup final?
Messi made his first 11 appearances for Inter Miami – collecting 11 goals and five assists – in just 44 days; the same length of time as Liz Truss’ entire reign as British Prime Minister.
Martino had started making diplomatic chatter about Messi’s rest long before the workload began to take its toll. Argentina’s World Cup-winning skipper joined his national team in September but missed the qualifier against Bolivia, with Lionel Scaloni suffering fatigue. Martino used the same phrase when Messi was promoting a tomato-filled pizza in Miami while his team was getting hammered 5-2 by Atlanta United in Georgia on September 17.
The day after taking out Messi against Toronto, Martino revealed that his number ten “has an old scar”.
“It’s annoying,” Martino continued, clearly uncomfortable digging too deeply into the details of Messi’s injury. “I don’t know if it hurts. I can’t really explain it because it’s more of a medical topic, it’s likely that it bothers him to the point, even on a mental level, that he can’t play freely.”
Messi and Alba were both given “no chance” of the match against Orlando City and Martino stressed that he would not rush his star players back from the treatment room.
“I know we have a final,” Martino added. “But under no circumstances will they take the field if they are not in a position to do so.”
As he made abundantly clear in the first half against Toronto, Messi has the final say on his own fitness, effectively signaling his substitution when he felt the remnants of a past complaint. After a career of over 1,000 games, Messi has had to overcome the pain barrier on countless occasions. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to grit his teeth during the most important match in Inter Miami’s short history.
READ THE LATEST NEWS, RUMORS AND GOSSIP ON INTER MIAMI AND LIONEL MESSI
Sign up now for MLS Season Pass on Apple TV to watch all the action from the 2023 Major League Soccer season. Click here to subscribe!
This article was originally published on 90min.com as Lionel Messi injury: Will be fit for Inter Miami’s US Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo.