Soccer

Lionel Messi is set to make his MLS debut in New York – but possibly as a substitute…

Lionel Messi has been a revelation for Inter Miami. A real rags-to-riches story, Inter Miami had only won one of their last eleven games prior to Messi’s arrival. Since the magician has blessed the 305 with his presence, The Herons have won eight games on the bounce in the Leagues Cup and the US Open Cup.

Tonight, Inter Miami contest their first MLS game since the World Cup winner touched down Southside. They face the New York Red Bulls in The Big Apple. There is a chance, however, that Messi only makes an appearance as a substitute, if at all.

Messi is a phenomenon, everybody knows that. But he is also 36 years of age. Having played eight games within the span of a month, manager Gerardo Martino has indicated that some ‘load management’, a term often used in American sports, may be needed.

“We will assess further after this evening’s training,” Martino said. “It is inevitable that we will not have him at some point.”

The ageing wizard has played every minute of Miami’s past six games and looked depleted at times in Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal win at FC Cincinnati, which went to extra time. Messi still claimed two assists and converted the opening kick in the shootout victory.

Despite his potential absence, Messi is with the squad in New York. Messi took the opportunity to dine with another GOAT, Novak Djokovic, whilst he prepares to win yet another Grand Slam at the US Open.

The national fanfare around Messi has meant that the lowest-priced tickets for Saturday’s game at the 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena are currently selling for over $400 on resale sites. Hundreds of fans were camped out of the W Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey on Friday afternoon, desperate to catch a glimpse of their footballing hero.

Their opponents, New York Red Bulls, are 11th, three points off the playoff positions. They were also knocked out of the Leagues Cup, the tournament that Inter Miami won, in the Round of 16.

Inter Miami are rock bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference, 14 points away from the playoff spots. With 12 games left to play, Martino and Miami will know that they need Messi as much as possible, and have to manage the Argentine as best as they can.

Before Messi joined, Miami managed to score 22 goals in 22 MLS matches. However, since Messi’s arrival, they have netted 25 goals across just eight matches. A sensational transformation. He makes an incredible difference to the side. Of course he does, he’s Lionel Messi.

If he does start on the bench tonight, don’t expect him to be there for long. Messi’s debut for Inter Miami was off the bench, and he still managed to turn around the deficit and win the game with a stunning free-kick. Whether it’s 90 minutes or 90 seconds, Messi will always have an impact.

<div class="riddle2-wrapper" data-rid-id="wFLFAC3b" data-auto-scroll="true" data-is-fixed-height-enabled="false" data-bg="#fff" data-fg="#00205b" style="margin:0 auto; max-width:100%; width:640px;" ><script src="https://www.riddle.com/embed/build-embedjs/embedV2.js"></script><iframe src="https://www.riddle.com/embed/a/wFLFAC3b?lazyImages=true&staticHeight=false" allow="autoplay" referrerpolicy="strict-origin"><section data-block="SingleChoice"><h2>Will Messi feature tonight against the New York Red Bulls?</h2><ul><li>Yes</li><li>Not tonight!</li></ul></section></iframe></div>

By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter

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