Lionel Messi finally took a break, much to the dismay of thousands of fans who paid big money to see Inter Miami play on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. Dozens of celebrities, including Matt Damon, Bad Bunny, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Fat Joe, DMC and many top tennis players in town for the U.S. Open (including Novak Djokovic) were on the guest list for the highly anticipated match, which was also being shown live on a giant screen at Times Square. The burning question heading into the game was whether Messi would start after playing in all eight games since his arrival, including the full 90 minutes in the past six, and 120 minutes in Wednesday’s U.S. Open semifinal victory.
The workload is rapidly increasing for Lionel Messi in his new home.
Since joining the club this summer, and making his debut on July 22, Lionel Messi has collected 714 minutes before even making his first Major League Soccer appearance. Since coming off the bench in his Inter Miami debut, playing 36 minutes, he has started each of the next seven games, playing the maximum in all but one.
Messi led Inter Miami to the Leagues Cup final, making seven appearances through the tournament and playing 594 minutes. He scored at least one goal in every single match, bagging 10 scores in the seven games.
Then, Messi played the full 120 minutes in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Cincinnati on August 23, just three days before the trip to Harrison, NJ for his first MLS match.
The question has been lingering since Messi first joined, with the understanding that some previous MLS stars like David Beckham (the current Inter Miami owner) and Thierry Henry opted out.
Messi looked to alleviate those fears in his first press conference with the club.
“My youth was spent on artificial turf,” Messi told the media regarding his time at the famed La Masia youth academy at Barcelona. “My whole life was on that pitch. Truth is it’s been a while since I’ve played on artificial turf, but I have no problem adapting myself again.”
We’ll see if that comes into play. MLS teams that have turf fields include Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, New England Revolution, Charlotte FC, and Atlanta United. Games against Charlotte and Atlanta loom on Inter Miami’s remaining MLS schedule this season, and if they manage to make the playoffs, they could see other teams on that list, including New England who are also in the Eastern Conference.