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Inter Miami’s lost its final game of the MLS season, even with star player Lionel Messi back in the side, after his insane free kick was turned onto the crossbar by Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina in the second half.
The World Cup winner was back in the Herons’ starting lineup for their 1-0 loss to The Crown in North Carolina on Saturday. He even reclaimed the captain’s armband for the meaningless game after Miami’s elimination from playoff contention earlier this month.
Messi had a chance to draw his team level with a free-kick right outside Charlotte’s penalty box in the 61st minute, after he and his teammates trailed by a Kerwin Vargas goal in the first half (13′).
His shot from an acute angle was thought to be goal bound, only for Kahlina to pull off a last-second reflex save to tip the ball onto the bar, as it had swarmed through a crowd of players from both sides until that point.
Charlotte had plenty at stake going into this weekend’s game, but those playing for The Crown made sure to be in control of their own destiny with a convincing win, as they’ve now clinched the final playoff seed (9th) of the Eastern Conference.
Lionel Messi couldn’t prevent Miami from losing on the last day of MLS regular season action
The 36-year-old had a great chance to draw Miami level with a close-range free-kick in the 61′
Miami, on the other hand, has already failed to make the playoffs after it’s 1-0 home loss to Cincinnati earlier this month.
Messi had come on as a second-half substitute in that game due to injury struggles, but couldn’t stop his team from crashing out of the regular MLS season.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner went the distance on Saturday night at Bank Of America Stadium, finishing with a total of three shots, two of them being considered as scoring chances.
Other than his freekick in the second half, Messi had an apparent goal ruled out for offside in the 49th minute. Had the goal counted, it would’ve been the 36-year-old’s 12th goal in 14 matches with Miami this season.
Charlotte will now finish the 2023 season second in league attendance; The Crown was averaging 33,634 entering Saturday’s regular- season finale.
Miami finished the season with eight wins, two draws and four losses when Messi plays. Seven of those matches were on the team’s run to win its first-ever trophy by claiming the Leagues Cup championship.
Messi also appeared in six MLS games, starting four times and scoring one goal. He also played in one U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
But a leg injury derailed his season, and essentially ended Inter Miami’s chances of making the postseason. Miami is now 1-4-3 in eight matches without Messi since he joined the club in July.
The Herons’ No. 10 is now expected to play in the team’s colors on November 5 and November 8, when it plays two exhibition matches in China.
It’ll be the first time Inter Miami goes on a foreign tour. Argentina then has more World Cup qualifiers on November 16 and November 21 – after which Messi should get an extended break before Inter Miami begins preparing for 2024.
The Argentine has previously denied that he’ll consider a loan move to former club FC Barcelona during the MLS offseason to stay fit.