MLS 2023-24: Lionel Messi and Inter Miami's playoff dreams fizzle out
Lionel Messi's inaugural season with Inter Miami in Major League Soccer (MLS) concluded on a disappointing note as their playoff hopes were extinguished with a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati.
Lionel Messi's debut season in Major League Soccer (MLS) with Inter Miami has ended on a sour note as their hopes of reaching the playoffs were dashed. In a disappointing turn of events, Inter Miami suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to FC Cincinnati, sealing their fate in missing out on the postseason. Adding to the MLS playoff exits, DC United also bid farewell to their English manager, former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, in what was described as a "mutual agreement."
Messi's return from injury, as a substitute in the 55th minute, failed to turn the tide for Inter Miami. Despite having two free-kick opportunities within striking distance, Messi's efforts missed the mark. Coach Gerardo Martino attributed Messi's performance to his limited recent playing time, stating, "The injury is fine, he doesn't have any problems, but (his performance was) logical because in recent times he has played very little."
As other match results worked against Miami, Messi's team found themselves languishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, trailing the last playoff spot by seven points with just two matches left in the season.
Messi's impact was particularly missed during his absence, as Inter Miami paid the price for their earlier success in the Leagues Cup. Following their triumph in that competition, hopes of additional silverware this season faded without Messi in the lineup. Their disappointment included a loss in the US Open Cup final to Houston and a decline in league contention.
Reflecting on the season, Coach Martino expressed his initial expectations of a different outcome, emphasizing their Leagues Cup victory as a significant achievement. With the season's end looming, Inter Miami will play their final two games against Charlotte, with uncertainty surrounding Messi's availability due to his commitments with the Argentina national team in upcoming World Cup qualifiers.