With a loss to FC Cincinnati on Saturday, Inter Miami CF was mathematically eliminated from MLS Cup playoff contention despite bringing Lionel Messi on in the 55th minute of the match. Does that mean Messi’s first season with Inter Miami was a failure despite his individual success?
Not by any metric, former United States men’s national team star Alexi Lalas said on the latest episode of “Alexi Lalas’ State of the Union Podcast.”
“They’ve raised the expectation, which is a good thing, and when they can start from scratch at the beginning of next year, then I think we’ll see what they are,” Lalas explained. “But they have also given so much joy and excitement and interest and curiosity over this last six months with what they have done. It’s already a success, but they have an offseason now to figure out what they really are.”
When Messi joined Inter Miami in July, the playoffs seemed like a pipe dream. Inter Miami was at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference with just five wins in 16 matches. Then, almost instantly, they became a powerhouse with Messi, going unbeaten in their first 11 games with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The playoffs were still a long shot, but it seemed possible with Messi in the fold.
Unfortunately for Miami, Messi’s availability became an issue during the height of their playoff push. Prior to Saturday’s match, Messi had missed five of the club’s last six games due to a scar tissue injury. In that time, Inter Miami went 1W-2D-2L.
With the playoffs now out of the question, the focus for Inter Miami has shifted to next season, which is when Lalas believes the expectations will be much higher for Messi and the club.
“I think everybody would agree with me that Miami will be judged next year,” Lalas said. “Miami with Messi starts in 2024. Now, what they did with this half-year situation was incredible but he also came into arguably the worst team in the league with an incredible amount of points to make up. That they were even in it in the end says a lot about what Tara and Messi and that team have done.”
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