Lionel Messi was rested for Inter Miami, who suffered their first loss since the Argentine’s arrival. On Saturday, they were humiliated 5-2 against Atlanta United, ending any chance of making the playoffs.
Messi had not been to Atlanta due to a hectic schedule of games after making his Miami debut around the end of July.
“Tata” Martino, the Miami coach, said after the defeat that Messi was experiencing “muscle fatigue” and that it would have been “extremely risky to bring him to play this game.”
The 36-year-old watched his teammates from the sidelines during Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Bolivia on Tuesday in La Paz.
Miami overcame Sporting Kansas City 3-2 last week despite not having Messi, but it was an entirely different scenario for Martino’s squad this time.
Miami took the lead in the 25th minute thanks to a brilliant goal from Ecuadorian attacker Leonardo Campana, who is currently on fire.
However, Atlanta, which is now ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference, responded forcefully, scoring three goals in the next eight minutes.
The assistant referee declared that French player Tristan Muyamba’s glanced header, which touched the inside of the post, crossed the line.
Five minutes later, Brazilian winger Xande Silva dribbled to the byline, and Miami defender Kamal Miller turned his pull-back into his own goal, giving Atlanta the lead.
Without former Spain international left-back Jordi Alba, Miami’s defense was in disarray when Brooks Lennon added the third goal with a well-struck effort in the 44th minute.
A Campana penalty gave Miami a 54th-minute lead, but despite their penchant for rallies including Messi, there was no such comeback this time.
Atlanta caught them off guard as they pressed forward in an attempt to pull even when Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis scored his 14th goal of the year, tying him for the lead in MLS scoring with Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar.
The fifth goal came in the 89th minute after another well constructed break, this time led by Lobjanidze, who again created the opportunity for Tyler Wolff to score.
At the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Miami is still six points behind D.C. United, who are in ninth place and have the last playoff slot.
Martino justified the choice to keep Messi and Alba at home ahead of a hectic schedule that includes league games on Wednesday and Sunday before the US Open Cup final on September 27. He claimed that Alba also had muscular weariness.
“If they came to play this game, we ran the chance of worse things happening. The coach said, “It is unrelated to the (artificial) surface.
Cincinnati, which leads the Eastern Conference and is already guaranteed a spot in the postseason, fought back to tie 2-2 with the Philadelphia Union, the MLS Cup runners-up from the previous season.
Daniel Gazdag’s penalty and a goal from Jose Martinez had placed Philadelphia up, but Cincinnati’s outstanding Aaron Boupendza pulled one back in the fourth minute of the second half.
With a lovely low pass from Boupendza to Brandon Vazquez, the American striker struck the goal, giving the visitors a point.
After trailing 3-1, Orlando City, who is on a roll, pulled off an even more remarkable comeback against Columbus at home, winning 4-3.
Ramiro Enrique took advantage of confusion in the Crew defense to win the game in the seventh minute of stoppage time after leveling the score with an opportunistic shot in the 86th minute.
The ‘Hudson River derby’ between the New York Red Bulls and City finished in a scoreless draw earlier.
Los Angeles FC will play its derby against cross-town rivals L.A. Galaxy later on Saturday.