Lionel Messi is the center of jokes on Atlanta United’s social media channels after Inter Miami were defeated 5-2 on Saturday night. The World Cup-winning Argentine captain, 36, who has 11 goals, five assists, and one Leagues Cup to his name since joining Miami, was rested after picking up a knock during the international break.
Messi visited a medical facility while away with Argentina and even missed his country’s last World Cup qualifier, a 3-0 win over Bolivia. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s absence was precautionary, as was Jordi Alba’s with the US Open Cup Final against Houston Dynamo coming up.
“There is some risk of having worse consequences if they came to play this match,” Miami head coach Gerardo Martino explained. The Argentine, 60, who hails from Rosario like Messi, added: “This is the day-to-day life that we have ahead of us because we have the quest to try to reach the playoffs. But we have the [Open Cup Final] on the 27th, so sometimes there are difficult decisions because these are also decisive matches. But the reality is that there is a final set for the 27th. That’s just one game, for a title. The league is seven, eight more dates, and [even] if we win them all, it is not certain we get in. We started this run way behind. We won’t abandon our hopes, but our focus is on the 27th.”
Messi scored a brace in an earlier meeting against Atlanta in the Leagues Cup which ended 4-0 after 90 minutes. This time, it was Miami’s turn to be on the end of a beating, coming out 5-2 losers. And Atlanta’s social media channels made Messi the center of their jokes.
“Tell ‘em to bring the whole squad next time,” one tweet from Atlanta’s X account read. Another mocked Messi’s pizza picture, which all but confirmed his absence from the game days prior, saying: “Here you have your pizza for the trip.” The pizza was mocked up to have tomatoes in the shape of a capital ‘L’.
A third tweet also mocked Apple for when they showcased its IOS 17.0 update with Miami beating Atlanta 1-0. Atlanta’s tweet showed Saturday’s 5-2 scoreline instead. Miami now has seven MLS games to save its Eastern Conference campaign. The team sits second-bottom on 28 points and seven points off the final playoff spot (ninth, DC United). Miami will take comfort in the fact that they have not lost with Messi on the pitch.
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The Sunshine State-based team plays bottom-of-the-table Toronto on Wednesday night. That will be followed up by a derby with Orlando City, who are certain of a postseason run.
Dynamo in the Cup Final is on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Games against New York City, Chicago, and Cincinnati, as well as back-to-back fixtures against Charlotte will close out the regular season.
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