Inter Miami star Lionel Messi will not travel with the team for Saturday’s road match against Atlanta United, a source said He told ESPN Argentina.
Messi uncharacteristically left Argentina’s World Cup qualifier last week over Ecuador before the final whistle, and despite making Wednesday’s trip to Bolivia, he was not named in coach Lionel Scaloni’s 23-man squad for the 3-0 win over high-altitude La Paz. .
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (US)
Miami coach Gerardo Martino said early Friday that Messi was “fine” but wanted to wait until after the final practice before the game to make a decision on the star’s availability against Atalanta.
“We will be careful with him because we have a lot of important matches in a short period,” Martino said.
Miami had a busy schedule heading into the international break, and is seeing a quick turnaround ahead of Wednesday’s home match with Toronto FC. Messi will also have more World Cup qualifying matches in October, as he faces Paraguay (October 12) and Peru (October 17) in South American qualifiers.
Miami’s games around that time will be against Charlotte FC: at home on October 18 and at North Carolina on October 21 to conclude the regular season.
“This is something we knew would happen at some point, but he will start to get used to our needs, especially in seasons like this with a lot of games,” Martino said regarding the possibility of Messi being rested further due to injury. His schedule.
“Playing 90 minutes each game and two or three days with travel in between will be difficult.”
Messi trained with the team on Thursday and Friday, and although Atalanta play on grass, the 36-year-old said in his only press conference last month that he had played on grass as a youngster and would have no problem doing so again.
“The truth is that I spent my youth on artificial turf, and my whole life was on this field,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I played on artificial turf, but I have no problem adapting again.”
The turf has been a hot topic this week after many blamed the surface for future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers rupturing his Achilles tendon in his first game with the New York Jets.
Atlanta is one of two MLS teams remaining on Inter Miami’s remaining away schedule that play on grass. Charlotte is the other, and Miami won’t play there until the final game of the regular season, by which time Miami may already have secured a spot in the playoffs.
If they make the playoffs, Miami could face a trip to another Eastern Conference club with turf — the New England Revolution. Despite their recent managerial woes, the Revs currently sit in second place in the standings.
A win on Saturday could push Miami — with some help elsewhere — from 14th to 11th in the Eastern Conference, leaving it just three points away from the playoffs.
Miami has already beaten Atalanta twice this season, beating them 2-1 in May before Messi arrived, and then 4-0 in the League Cup in July, which was Messi’s first start and in which he contributed two goals and an assist.
Saturday will be the first trip back to the 404 for Martino, who coached the team for three seasons, leading them to the MLS Cup title in 2018. He left after that win to take over as head coach of the Mexican national team.
Up to 70,000 fans could gather at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to catch a glimpse of Messi on Saturday. The cheapest nosebleed tickets are up to $130 on secondary ticket sites, even with Messi potentially not starting the match.
Atlanta ranks sixth in the Eastern Conference, but has won only two of its past eight games in all competitions, and has allowed 43 goals this season, the second most goals in the league behind Portland.
The team is led by Thiago Almada, the 22-year-old Argentine midfielder who has been compared to Messi due to his height (5-foot-7) and technical abilities. He leads the league with 11 assists, and he and Messi exchanged shirts after their meeting in the League Cup in July.
Atalanta were struggling ahead of the summer transfer deadline but have added some key pace on the wings in Zande Silva and Saba Lubyanidze, who have progressed significantly since their arrival, collecting a goal and three assists in four games.
Also on Friday, Miami signed Leonardo Campana to a contract extension through 2027 with an option for 2028.
Information from ESPN’s Ross Devonport was used in this report.