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Friday June 21, 2024

Lionel Messi likely to return when Inter Miami face DC United

By Reuters
May 19, 2024
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) controls the ball in the first half against CF Montreal at Stade Saputo on May 11, 2024. — Reuters
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) controls the ball in the first half against CF Montreal at Stade Saputo on May 11, 2024. — Reuters

MIAMI: Lionel Messi looks set to return to Inter Miami’s lineup on Saturday night when the Herons host D.C. United in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Messi missed Wednesday night’s scoreless draw at Orlando City with a knee issue, marking the fifth league match he has failed to appear in for Eastern Conference-leading Miami (8-2-4, 28 points).

The Herons have only one win and two draws in those five matches. In the nine matches he’s played, they’re unbeaten with seven victories.

But Wednesday’s absence always appeared to be more about load management. And after coach Tata Martino said he was hopeful the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner would return Saturday, Messi did not appear on the league’s player availability report on Friday night.

“We trained well yesterday, and we hope to train well today,” Martino said Friday, via an interpretation from Spanish by USA Today. “We will define it after training, but we are optimistic about (Saturday’s) match.”

Messi has 10 goals and an MLS-leading 12 assists entering Saturday’s encounter, while his former FC Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez is one of three MLS players tied for the league lead with 11 goals.

Another player with 11 goals is D.C.’s Christian Benteke, who failed to score in the Black and Red’s 4-1 home loss to the visiting New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.

Benteke missed a couple of excellent chances to take sole possession of the league lead, though it may not have influenced the outcome against the Red Bulls, who threatened consistently on the break.

The loss was the third time D.C. (4-4-5, 17 points) has conceded three or more goals at home.

“I mean listen, I think everyone was disappointed the other night, and the things that we didn’t get right, we try to address in a really short time,” D.C. coach Troy Lesesne said.

“And I think that’s just trying to identify where some of the game got away from us. And I think a lot of those things are controllables.”

D.C. has been difficult to beat on the road, drawing four of six and earning their first away win 3-2 at Atlanta United last weekend via Benteke’s second hat trick. The Belgian international has scored in three of his four away appearances this season.