Lionel Messi and Inter Miami had another first during their historical summer together. Instead, this one wasn’t as exciting despite a back-and-forth affair on the pitch on Wednesday night.
Messi was held scoreless for the second time as Inter Miami finished in a 0-0 draw against Nashville SC at DRV PNK Stadium in a rematch of their Leagues Cup final from Aug. 19.
“What we have to do is move on,” coach Tata Martino said after Inter Miami failed to win its first game of the Messi era. “This can happen.”
Messi had several opportunities to score on free kicks, as he has done while scoring 11 goals in his previous nine games with the MLS club. But he was unable to recreate the Messi Mania magic that has made Inter Miami so entertaining since his arrival and first game in July.
While Inter Miami has yet to lose a match, Inter Miami and Nashville settled for one point each in the MLS Eastern Conference playoff race after this match. But three points would’ve been preferred. Thanks to the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire FC, Inter Miami did gain one point on the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference.
Miami sits 10 points behind Chicago, which has lost three straight as MLS returns to regular-season play after the completion of the Leagues Cup.
Challenging Path to Playoffs
The top nine finishers in each conference qualify for the MLS playoffs. Miami is in a frantic fight to the finish to make the postseason field after digging itself into a massive hole in the pre-Messi era.
How did Messi, Inter Miami fair against Nashville? While Messi and Inter Miami beat Nashville 1-1 (10-9 in PKs) on Aug. 19, this match was much different.
Before the match, Inter Miami celebrated the Leagues Cup trophy it won on the pitch – which coach Tata Martino noted was unique. While Messi and Sergio Busquets got some rest and came off the bench in their 2-0 win against New York Red Bulls last Saturday, Martino felt fatigue still played a factor.
Potential National Team Duties
“It seemed we were still with an accumulation of fatigue,” Martino said. “We did not have the freshness and the possibilities that we have had in almost all the other games, which today I think is the first time that we have not.”
Messi did not score in Inter Miami’s win over FC Cincinnati, which ended 3-3 (5-4 in PKs), but he did have two assists to force extra time.
The Challenge Ahead
While the Leagues Cup title was gratifying, competing in the MLS playoffs is the next goal. And some players might be on the move for national team duties, including Messi.
Martino has said Messi could miss three games, while seven other Inter Miami players were called up by their respective countries.
Martino still hopes his Inter Miami players can step up to the challenge in their potential absences.
Final Moments in Regulation
Recapping the final minutes in regulation: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Messi entered the box and his shot was ultimately missed in the final minute of extra time. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar was aggressive in the final minutes of extra time, but to no avail. A corner kick in the final minute was sent the other way.
Messi attempted a shot in the middle of the field but it was blocked about three minutes into extra time. Inter Miami’s DeAndre Yedlin was evaluated for a handball by VAR. But referees ruled against the initial ruling as we entered the 90th minute. It did appear a kick by Nashville’s Jacob Shaffelburg hit Yedlin before going out of bounds.
David Ruiz, after a bad foul a few minutes earlier, missed a shot on goal in the 87th minute. Mukhtar’s free kick misses in 85’: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Reigning MVP Hany Mukhtar was fouled by Inter Miami youngster David Ruiz to set up a free kick just minutes after a miss by Messi.
Messi’s Free Kick
But we’re still scoreless in this one. Mukhtar’s kick was deflected by Inter Miami’s wall and play continues. Messi misses free kick in 82’: Inter Miami 1, Nashville 0 Messi was taken down by Nashville’s Jack Maher in the 80th minute to set up a second free kick opportunity for him in the second half. And he was unable to convert again.
Messi’s kick was defended by the Nashville wall and shot into the air after the deflection. Offsides takes away Mukhtar goal: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Reigning MVP Hany Mukhtar was ruled offsides after his shot in 69th minute. Inter Miami avoided the deficit in a back-and-forth set of minutes from 65th minute that saw two other misses and a shot by Messi blocked.
Inter Miami’s Facundo Farías missed an attempt in 66th minute, while Nashville’s Jacob Shaffelburg missed a left boot in 67th minute. Messi had another shot blocked one minute later. Messi miss in 60’: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Messi was fouled in the 59th minute to set up a free kick. And Messi was unable to do what he does best.
Messi’s free kicks have had a knack of finding the back of the net during his Inter Miami career, but his left boot was met by the Nashville goalkeeper in the 60th minute. A few minutes earlier, Inter Miami defender Kamal Miller chased down reigning MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar to prevent a shot in the middle of the net in the 56th minute. Miller celebrated with a fist in the air to get an ovation from the crowd.
Halftime: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Two yellow cards and another miss for Inter Miami in the final minutes before halftime.
Messi lobbed a beautiful pass with his left foot into the box for Robert Taylor, but Taylor’s left shot missed too wide to the left just before halftime in the 44th minute.
The pass was stellar. The finish was underwhelming. But the finish before halftime was entertaining. But both teams are playing each other tightly and physically during this rematch of their Leagues Cup game from 11 days ago.
Yellow Cards and Misses
Inter Miami’s Diego Gomez was given a yellow card following a foul at the middle of the field in extra time before the half. Inter Miami’s Sergio Busquets also received a yellow card for making contact with referee immediately after the whistle was blown. Busquets was not overly physical, and his contact appeared to be accidental. It appeared he immediately apologized, while the referee loudly told him to not touch him.
Taylor Misses a Chance
Taylor misses in 34’: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Robert Taylor misses a strike in the 34th minute after a great look. Of course, the shot was set up with a pass from Messi to Taylor in the middle of the field. Inter Miami fans in attendance were ready to erupt after the team’s second shot of the game.
Messi foul met with boos: Inter Miami 0, Nashville 0 Messi was called for a foul in the 25th minute as Nashville defender Lukas MacNaughton challenged an attack in the box. Inter Miami fans in DRV PNK Stadium rained down with boos as possession changed.
Early Free Kicks
Messi, two minutes later, delivered a stellar pass to Jordi Alba in the box, but it was defended well by Nashville. Three free kicks for Leo Messi in the first 17 minutes of this game, but we’re still scoreless so far.
Nashville’s Jack Maher missed right footed shot from the center of the box is high and wide to the right in the 8th minute. Inter Miami has been more aggressive on its side of the field in the opening minutes with three set pieces, but unable to convert. Messi’s fourth free kick seemed to be taken by the wind, as Idalia (now downgraded to a tropical storm) has affected parts of South Florida with rain and wind for much of Tuesday.
Special Guest in Attendance
Ken Griffey Jr. taking photos of Messi at Inter Miami game Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (with a photographer vest and equipment!) is on the pitch and taking photos in tonight’s game. Griffey said hello to boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. before the game.
Before the game, Inter Miami held a ceremony to celebrate their Leagues Cup title over Nashville from Aug. 19. Messi and Deandre Yedlin held the trophy together and raised it to the Inter Miami fan section. Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas addressed the crowd at DRV PNK Stadium.
“You, our fans, are responsible for making our first trophy happen,” Mas said.
Messi was all smiles during pregame warmups on the pitch before tonight’s game. Here’s a quick video of Messi and the Inter Miami players warming up.
Inter Miami lineup: Messi, Busquets back in starting 11 After coming off the bench in Saturday night’s win over the New York Red Bulls, former FC Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets are back in the starting lineup tonight against Nashville SC. Jordi Alba, another former Barça player now in Miami, continues to be a starting 11 staple for coach Tata Martino.
Key Players on the Bench
Nashville SC lineup: 2022 MLS MVP on bench Nashville SC, which is in the middle of a run of three games in eight days, is sitting some key players tonight. Two of Nashville’s designated players – forward Sam Surridge and defender Walker Zimmerman – will not be available. The team’s third designated player, 2022 MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar, will start the game on the bench.
Will Messi play tonight vs. Nashville SC? After coming off the bench in his last game against the New York Red Bulls last Saturday, Messi is expected to start in tonight’s game against Nashville. Messi did not start so he could rest after a grueling start to his Inter Miami career. Since his debut with the club on July 21, Messi has played in nine games with 11 goals and six assists. And he could be on loan to the Argentina national team next month.
How to Watch
How to watch Lionel Messi and Inter Miami against Nashville SC The Inter Miami-Nashville SC game can be streamed live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Messi’s Upcoming Absences
Messi could miss up to three Inter Miami games due to national team duties, Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said after the 2-0 win over the Red Bulls last Saturday. “The importance is that we value winning and winning this way because it’s something we have to get accustomed to. Leo is gonna miss at least three games,” Martino said. “He’s gonna get called up by his national team and others too. We know that the team has to continue to win without them at times.” Martino didn’t specify which games Messi will miss, or if he’ll miss games due to rest.
Inter Miami’s upcoming schedule following Wednesday’s match:
- Sept. 3: at Los Angeles FC
- Sept. 9: home vs. Kansas City
- Sept. 16: at Atlanta United
Messi could miss any of the next four MLS matchups as he will be with the Argentina national team for World Cup qualifiers. Argentina will face Ecuador on Sept. 7 and Bolivia on Sept. 12.
National Team Call-Ups
Two Inter Miami standouts joining USMNT Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender and rising 18-year-old standout Benjamin Cremaschi have been called up to represent the United States men’s national team for the upcoming friendly September matches against Uzbekistan (Sept. 9 in St. Louis) and Oman (Sept. 12 in St. Paul, Minnesota). Callender was named League’s Cup Best Goalkeeper and earned the final Man of the Match honors for his influential performance against Nashville SC. Cremaschi has one goal, four assists and two match-winning penalties in the past eight matches for Inter Miami. The duo will join USMNT after Inter Miami’s match against LAFC on Sunday.
MLS Matchday 29 (Aug. 30) Games
- Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Charlotte FC vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Inter Miami vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET
- New York City FC vs. CF Montréal, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Austin FC vs. Seattle Sounders, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Chicago Fire FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Houston Dynamo FC vs. Columbus Crew, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids, 8:30 p.m. ET
- St. Louis City SC vs. FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m. ET
- San Jose Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. ET
All games available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
What is the probability of Inter Miami making the MLS playoffs? Not great. Inter Miami dug a massive hole for itself in the pre-Messi era, putting itself dead last in the Eastern Conference before defeating the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. Inter Miami now owns 21 points through 23 games played. Most of the teams ahead of Miami in the standings, however, have played at least two more games, so having games in hand helps the cause.
The top nine finishers in each conference make the playoffs. During the 2022 season, the ninth-place finisher in the Eastern Conference had 42 points; in 2021 the ninth-place team had 47 points. Just to be safe, let’s say Inter Miami needs to get to that 47-point benchmark to have any chance to make the postseason. That would mean averaging 2.4 points a game, winning at least seven of the final 11 games. Any loss would be devastating.
MLS Playoff Picture
These would be the early MLS playoff matchups, if the season ended before Wednesday night’s games …
- Wild-card match: CF Montréal (No. 8 seed) vs. Chicago Fire FC (9)
- Round 1 (best-of-three series)
- FC Cincinnati (1) vs. CF Montréal (8)-Chicago Fire FC (9) winner
- Philadelphia Union (2) vs. Nashville SC (7)
- New England Revolution (3) vs. Atlanta United (6)
- Orlando City SC (4) vs. Columbus Crew (5)
- Wild-card match: FC Dallas (No. 8 seed) vs. Austin FC (9)
- Round 1 (best-of-three series)
- St. Louis City SC (1) vs. FC Dallas (8)-Austin FC (9) winner
- Los Angeles FC (2) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (7)
- Seattle Sounders (3) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (6)
- Real Salt Lake (4) vs. Houston Dynamo FC (5)
FC Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth Wednesday night with:
- Scenario 1: Win at Atlanta United
- Scenario 2: Draw at Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls loss/draw, Chicago Fire FC loss/draw, Charlotte FC loss/draw
- Scenario 3: New York Red Bulls loss/draw, Chicago Fire FC loss, Charlotte FC loss/draw
- Scenario 4: New York Red Bulls loss/draw, Chicago Fire FC draw, Charlotte FC loss
What is Inter Miami’s remaining 2023 schedule?
- Aug. 30: vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 3: at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 9: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 16: at Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 20: vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 24: at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
- Sept. 26: vs. Houston Dynamo FC (U.S. Open Cup final), time TBD
- Sept. 30: vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 4: at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 7: vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 18: vs. Charlotte FC, 8 p.m. ET
- Oct. 21: at Charlotte FC, 6 p.m. ET
With the exception of the U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 26 (which will be available to stream on the CBS Sports Golazo Network), all other Inter Miami games are available to watch via the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.