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Inter Miami Lose to Monterrey in First Leg of CCC Quarterfinal

Inter Miami Team (Via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi watched from the sidelines as Inter Miami CF lost 2-1 to Monterrey in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jorge Rodriguez scored a remarkable late goal to secure Monterrey’s victory, with Messi seated at field level supporting his teammates in their pursuit of a second trophy since his arrival in the summer of 2023.

Messi has been dealing with a right hamstring issue for nearly a month, and although he trained with the squad on Tuesday, Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino informed the media before the match that he wouldn’t risk further injury to his star player.

After the match, Martino reiterated the team’s cautious approach with Messi: “Like we said, he’s game to game. This wasn’t the game he wasn’t ready for.

This is how we’ll approach the match against Colorado [on Saturday] and the second leg against Monterrey.

“Every day he feels better, but today felt like too high a risk.”

Messi’s former Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba started for Miami against a Monterrey side that is second in the Liga MX Clausura. Monterrey had previously defeated MLS side FC Cincinnati 3-1 on aggregate to reach the quarterfinals.

Inter Miami Team (Via MLS)

Tomás Avilés opened the scoring for Miami in the first half from a corner kick, but Monterrey equalized through Maximiliano Meza shortly after Miami’s David Ruiz was sent off in the 65th minute with his second yellow card of the night.

With Miami trying to hold on for a draw while down a man, Rodriguez fired a shot from outside the box past Drake Callender, giving Monterrey the win and another away goal ahead of the second leg on April 10 in Mexico. Miami will be desperate for their star player to be available for that match.

“Today, given the situation and the rival we had in front of us, knowing Monterrey had a full squad while we had important absences, I liked the way we competed,” Martino added.

“We did well. If I review the bits of the game that I have in my head, we didn’t suffer from goal-scoring situations. The set-piece play that led to the equalizer was unfortunate for us, then the 2-1 goal from the midfield is a product of the hierarchy that the rival has.

“But really, we competed well and that’s what I think is important and attractive for the team.”

While Messi was on the sidelines for the game, a source told that following Miami’s defeat, he angrily approached the Monterrey locker room and began yelling, though the exact reason for the confrontation was unclear.

Lionel Messi at Inter Miami (Via MLS)

Monterrey head coach Fernando Ortiz expressed mixed feelings about Messi being held out of the game: “I admire Leo, sportingly. I keep watching and keep admiring. I want to play against him, but I want my team to win.”

Messi last played on March 13, making a 50-minute appearance for Miami against Nashville SC in the second leg of the Champions Cup round of 16. Despite the early substitution, the Miami star contributed to the 3-1 victory with a goal and an assist.

“We played against Nashville [in the round of 16],” Martino said. “But when one gets [into] to the later rounds and begins playing important games against the best teams of the continent, it’s a lesson for the club. The younger players and in that situation, we matched the level of the game.

“I cannot find points where I can say the team suffered for a specific reason. Maybe at certain points we went back especially in the second half, but I thought we were organized, we cut away and went well to the spaces. I don’t have anything particularly important to point out as negative.”

Messi has scored five goals and added two assists in five matches across all competitions for Miami this season before getting injured. He also missed both of Argentina’s friendlies in the last international window due to the injury.

The MLS side bypassed the initial round of the Champions Cup by winning the inaugural edition of Leagues Cup in 2023, before beating Nashville in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals.

The next match for Messi and Miami is an MLS home game against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. It is unknown at this time whether he will be available for that game.

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