Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino expects Lionel Messi to return to Inter Miami’s starting lineup when they host Nashville on Wednesday, aiming to continue their push for a Major League Soccer playoff spot.
Messi and his former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets both came off the bench in the second half of Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Red Bulls in New York, Messi scoring another memorable goal despite his abbreviated minutes.
Martino had said they both needed the rest.
Argentine superstar Messi, who arrived to massive fanfare in July, had played eight games within a month for Miami in their triumphant Leagues Cup campaign and a US Open Cup semi-final win.
But on Tuesday, Martino indicated the breather had been enough.
“The game he needed, the key game for him to have a bit of recovery was the last one in New York, the same with Busquets,” Martino said. “If there are no issues, he should start.”
Messi’s appearance off the bench marked his first MLS regular-season minutes and he didn’t disappoint, delivering a delightful 89th-minute goal.
Jordi Alba acrobatically hooked the ball into the box to Messi who twisted and turned then slipped a sublime pass with the outside of his foot to Benjamin Cremaschi whose low first-time cross was tapped in by the seven-times Ballon d’Or winner.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve watched an assist no less than 10 times … I really can’t understand how he saw Cremaschi,” Martino said.
Messi has now scored 11 goals in nine appearances in all competitions since joining Inter Miami, who are currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference 11 points out of the last playoff spot with 11 games remaining.
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