21 Aug Martino set to rest Messi after US Open Cup semi
Inter Miami will play their sixth match in 22 days Wednesday when they take on FC Cincinnati in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, with three more matches coming up in the following 11 days when they resume MLS play.
Miami’s busy schedule may raise some concern about the 36-year-old legs of a certain Lionel Messi, who played all 90 minutes in Saturday’s Leagues Cup final and in each of the four previous matches.
“We said that at some point he would have to rest because of the load of minutes played,” Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said before training Monday. “Clearly, Wednesday is not going to be that day. If he does not tell me he wants to rest, he will continue to play.”
That statement matches comments Martino made earlier this season when he stated that Messi will always go the distance in a match if he can.
Messi scored his 10th goal in seven matches since joining Miami when he opened the scoring vs. Nashville over the weekend, leading his new club to a first-ever trophy.
He also scored in the penalty shootout, but it was what he did after the match that also had many people raving even more about the World Cup champion.
Prior to the trophy ceremony, Messi handed the captain’s armband to right back DeAndre Yedlin, who led the team for most of the season before Messi’s arrival. Yedlin had taken over the captaincy from Brazilian midfielder Gregore, who went down injured in the team’s third game.
“This is not the first time that he has made this type of gesture,” said Martino. “This is the reason why when people say he is the best player in the world, it is not only because of what he does on pitch during a match.
“The same thing happens at training, with him and also with Jordi Alba; they get the younger players together to explain the work and the goals. That really helps the team prepare more quickly.”
“Quickly” doesn’t really do justice in describing the meteoric rise of this last-placed MLS squad since the arrival of former Barcelona teammates Messi, Alba and Sergio Busquets. Even Martino has been a little shocked at how things have progressed en route to the Leagues Cup title.
“We didn’t think we would be so competitive at this tournament because our team was still under construction,” Martino said. “But, well, we ended up competing and winning and that has made us very happy and optimistic for what is to come.”
What’s to come next is this semifinal against an FC Cincinnati team that lost 3-0 to Columbus Crew on Saturday but is in the middle of their best MLS season since making the jump from the second-tier USL Championship in 2019.
The “Orange and Blue,” coached by former USMNT forward Pat Noonan, currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with 15 wins from 24 games, putting them eight points clear of the New York Red Bulls in second.
Cincinnati has also won 11 of their 12 home games this season, scoring 29 goals and allowing just nine. Their only blemish at TQL Stadium came last month thanks to a 2-2 draw with Charlotte.
Like Miami, Cincinnati is also led on the field by a red-hot tattooed No. 10 born in Rosario, Argentina — Luciano Acosta — who sits second in the MLS scoring charts with 12 goals, 11 of which have come in the last 14 games.
The winner of Wednesday’s semifinal will take on either Real Salt Lake or Houston in the final on Sept. 27. If Real Salt Lake wins that matchup, they will host the final.
However, if Houston wins, then whoever wins between Cincinnati and Miami would be the host.