Lionel Messi's lack of availability means Inter Miami's main goal of Concacaf Champions Cup could soon end

Playing yet another game without Lionel Messi, Inter Miami are up against it in their most important competition of the season, losing 2-1 to Monterrey in Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal first leg action on Wednesday. The opener by Tomas Aviles was canceled out by goals from Maximiliano Meza and Jorge Rodriguez as the Mexican club return home with the advantage. Those goals are important because not only does it mean that Miami will head to Mexico with a deficit to overturn on April 10, but away goals are also still a tiebreaker in Champions Cup matches so a 1-0 win by Inter in Mexico still wouldn’t be enough. To draw and advance, they’ll have to score at least three goals. 

Before the season, when asked about what competitions he would prioritize, Tata Martino spoke about how the Champions Cup would be that tournament, and with a place in the Club World Cup on the line, it makes sense as to why he’d do that. The Herons entered the tournament in the round of 16 but with Messi missing his fourth consecutive match, they lacked the firepower to get past the Mexican side.

In the first half, the Herons held serve going into the interval with a lead but two yellow cards from David Ruiz were more than they could cope with being overrun in the second half. Further injury concerns also copped up as Robert Taylor went down with an apparent hamstring injury as well. 

When Miami can’t win big matches without Messi, they’re consistently put into awkward positions in competitions like this that he helped them qualify for. With Copa America this summer, it’s hard to tell if Messi wants to push himself too hard before the tournament but no matter what, the injuries are becoming quite a concern.

Messi missed six of the last 10 matches to close out last season and now has missed one of their most important matches of this season. While it may not be the beginning of the end yet, it’s fair to wonder how many minutes are left in Messi’s legs.

Facing the Colorado Rapids on Saturday before heading away from home to face Monterrey, Liga MX has dominated MLS in head-to-head matches so far, and this second leg provides a more than difficult task. 

There has been a lot of talk about MLS’ improvement and what a beacon Messi’s signing for Inter Miami has been but with the chips down in the tournament, it’s time to show how much better the Herons have gotten or risk losing their No. 1 objective.

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