In an attempt to advance to the playoffs, Lionel Messi and Inter Miami go to Los Angeles on Sunday to take on the MLS champions.
With ten games left, Miami is 10 points outside of the postseason spots, making Los Angeles FC, who are ranked second in the Western Conference, one of their toughest opponents.
Miami was held to a goalless draw at home by Nashville on Wednesday, which dealt a setback to their hopes of making a deep run into the postseason after they finished bottom of the league following a winless stretch of 11 MLS games before to Messi’s arrival.
Last Saturday, in Messi’s first appearance of the regular season, the team defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. This was a disappointing outcome.
“We’re just going to keep moving forward, but this feels like a loss because we have tunnel vision on our goal, which is to make the playoffs,” Canadian defender Kamal Miller said after Wednesday’s tie.
With 11 goals in all competitions, Messi had guided Miami to victory in the mid-season Leagues Cup event and into the US Open Cup final.
But he was far from his best versus Nashville, which begs the question of whether the demanding schedule he has had since making his debut has worn him out.
“We have to keep going because a lot can still happen, but we got a little too used to titles, finals, and winning in New York,” Argentine coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino remarked.
Even though LAFC is seven points behind St. Louis City, the team leading the Western Conference, they should be favorites to win the MLS Cup once again.
Greater than Messi
The team’s head coach, Steve Cherundolo, is certain that his group cannot concentrate just on Messi’s danger.
There’s a lot of talk about Messi, Miami’s improved strength, and the outcomes they’re achieving. However, he told reporters, “I believe it’s a mistake to concentrate on one person; for us, it’s just another home game that we want to win.
Given the skill of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, the former USA international said that even if a scheme of that such could be developed, it would be a fruitless endeavor.
“I believe that trying to believe you can stop him for ninety minutes is a delusion, given his evident skill and style of play. He’s going to get one or two opportunities.
“It’s just the nature of this game and what he’s done for every team in his career,” he said.
There are going to be chances lost if you attempt to concentrate on that instead of trying to defeat Miami. And that is the area in which we are concentrating on ensuring that, in order to defeat us, they must collectively defend, work hard, and put in an extremely demanding and arduous shift,” he said.
The Pacific North West derby between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders on Saturday is the other major event of the weekend.
Portland has to improve as they sit in 12th place and are only four points off of the last playoff berth, while third-place Seattle should be well on their way to the postseason.
Before the teams moved to MLS, the rivalry continued in a number of leagues, dating back to when the two clubs first faced off in the 1970s NASL.
The other matchup on Saturday will see Dallas, who are vying for a berth in the West’s playoffs, play at home against an Atlanta team that has strengthened and is now sixth in the East.