In the 37th minute of Inter Miami CF’s commanding 4-0 victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday, Lionel Messi found himself substituted due to a troubling case of muscle fatigue. This development occurred just moments after his former Barcelona comrade, Jordi Alba, had also exited the field of play.
Following the match, Miami’s coach, Gerardo Martino, disclosed that both Alba and Messi would undergo evaluations in the upcoming days. However, Martino categorically ruled them out for the forthcoming clash against Orlando City on Sunday. This decision aimed to ensure their readiness for the highly anticipated U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo scheduled for the following Wednesday. Martino emphasized, “There’s no possibility of them playing on Sunday. While we do have a final scheduled for next Wednesday, they won’t step onto the field if they’re not fit to play.”
Messi and Alba, who had both been in the starting lineup after sitting out Saturday’s 5-2 defeat against Atlanta United FC, had not encountered any exceptionally forceful challenges nor exhibited visible signs of limping. Nevertheless, it was evident that they grappled with a certain degree of physical discomfort.
Martino, speaking through a translator, stated, “They trained normally, and we felt they were ready to play.I don’t think this is a new issue or a more severe one than they’ve experienced previously. It’s simply fatigue. We don’t suspect it’s a muscle injury either; this conclusion stems from a recent conversation I had with him. But we have to continue being careful, and we’ll monitor him closely in the next few days.”
Rather than heading to the locker room, both players opted to take their place on the bench after leaving the field. Shortly thereafter, Miami’s Facundo Farías managed to net a goal, granting the home team a 1-0 lead at halftime. The second half saw Robert Taylor score two remarkable goals, separated by a Benjamin Cremaschi strike, effectively securing three valuable points.
Initially, Messi exhibited vivacity and came close to capitalizing on a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute with a far-post volley. However, 15 minutes later, it became evident that the Argentine was laboring due to an undisclosed physical issue, prompting his substitution for Taylor.
Jordi Alba had left the pitch just four minutes before Messi, and Toronto FC had also made two substitutions before the Miami duo’s exit. Victor Vasquez, another former Barcelona youth player, was forced to leave the field in the 12th minute, subsequently replaced by Brandon Servania. Unfortunately, Servania had to be assisted off due to an apparent knee injury just 14 minutes later.
Before his substitution, Messi had spent a few minutes dealing with what seemed to be a leg issue. He was seen stretching his right leg during play and eventually removed his captain’s armband, waiting for a stoppage in play to exit the field. He didn’t even wait to reach the sidelines before unlacing his cleats, lowering his socks, and removing his shin guards.
Messi had missed his previous two matches—one for his club and another for his country—in recent days. He had sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifying victory against Bolivia on September 12 and the subsequent loss to Atlanta on Saturday. Fatigue was cited as the primary reason for his absence, and Messi was not available for comment.
Wednesday’s match marked the beginning of a grueling schedule for Inter Miami, featuring six games in a span of just 17 days. After facing Orlando on Sunday and Houston in the Open Cup on September 27, Miami will contest three more MLS matches in quick succession: New York City FC on September 30, Chicago Fire FC on October 4, and hosting FC Cincinnati on October 7.
The outcome of this match left Miami trailing D.C. United by five points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, although they hold two matches in hand.
Prior to this encounter, Messi had made 11 appearances for Miami, primarily in Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup competitions. During these initial 11 outings, he managed to amass an impressive tally of 11 goals and five assists, including one goal and two assists in three MLS matches.