Miami coach Gerardo Martino said after the match that both Alba and Messi would be evaluated in the coming days, but that neither player would be available to play against Orlando City on Sunday so that they might be ready for the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo next Wednesday.
In a rollercoaster turn of events, Lionel Messi's eagerly anticipated return to Inter Miami's lineup was short-lived, as he now faces another stint on the sidelines due to injury.
Messi's comeback was marred by a troubling leg issue that forced him to be substituted in the 37th minute during Inter Miami's recent match against Toronto. Despite his early exit, Inter Miami rose to the occasion, delivering a commanding 4-0 victory, bringing them within a mere five points of securing a playoff spot in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
Robert Taylor, who stepped in for Messi, showcased an outstanding performance, contributing two goals and an assist. However, Messi's injury status has understandably taken center stage, casting a shadow over Inter Miami's recent success. Coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino, addressing the media post-game, confirmed that the Argentine superstar would be absent from Sunday's crucial clash against Orlando.
Explaining Messi's absence, Martino revealed, "We don't think it's a muscular injury. That's also from a conversation that I just had with him," via the translation, even though Messi was stretching in a manner that suggested otherwise before leaving the field. "But we have to continue being careful, and we'll look at him over the next few days."
Wednesday’s match was the first of what will be six for Inter Miami in a span of 17 days. The team plays at Orlando on Sunday, then will host Houston in the U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 27. That will be followed by three more MLS matches in short order: against New York City FC on Sept. 30, at Chicago on Oct. 4, and playing host to Cincinnati on Oct. 7.
With Messi's injury leaving fans and pundits alike concerned, Inter Miami faces a challenging task in Orlando, hoping to secure a vital victory without their talismanic playmaker. The spotlight will undoubtedly be on how the team copes in his absence and whether they can continue their pursuit of a coveted playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.