- A muscle issue had limited Messi to just two appearances since September 3
- The World Cup winner was named in Tata Martino’s starting XI to face Charlotte
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Lionel Messi is set to return to the starting lineup for Inter Miami in its final game of the MLS regular season Saturday night.
The World Cup winner was named in Tata Martino’s starting XI to face Charlotte FC after recovering from injury.
A muscle issue had limited the Argentine to just two appearances for the Herons since September 3 as the team saw their playoff hopes slip away.
A leg ailment had limited Messi, 36, to only two appearances – and 72 total minutes played – for Miami (9-17-7, 34 points) since Labor Day. And by the time he was able to contribute again, his insertion as a second-half substitute ended in a 1-0 home loss to Cincinnati on October 7 that eliminated the Herons from playoff contention.
But Messi followed that with two appearances for Argentina in World Cup qualifying, scoring twice and playing all 90 minutes in the latter, a 2-0 win over Peru on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi returned to the starting lineup for Inter Miami’s final game of the MLS season
Messi was spotted boarding a flight to Charlotte with his Inter Miami teammates, Friday
Messi, 36, was in attendance for the Herons’ 2-2 home draw against Charlotte on Wednesday
He returned in time to watch Wednesday’s 2-2 draw between Miami and Charlotte in Florida from the sidelines, and had said after his appearance at DRV PNK Stadium that he intended to play Saturday.
‘The most important thing is the 90 minutes he played, that he felt well and played confidently and not worried about his injury,’ Miami manager Tata Martino said postgame, according to an interpretation from the Charlotte Observer.
‘Sometimes your head plays games with you after injuries. … We will see if he is also ready to play Saturday.’
The uncertainty leaves Charlotte (9-11-13, 40 points) in a peculiar position ahead of a match that it must win to have any hope of wrapping up one of the nine Eastern Conference postseason spots.
The Crown begin the weekend as one of four teams tied for that ninth spot, but because Chicago and New York City FC play each other Saturday, one of the two is guaranteed to move to 41 points or better.
Charlotte will rue giving back two late leads in Florida in their 2-2 draw, but they should have leading scorer Karol Swiderski available to start after he came off the bench on Wednesday, having played for Poland a day before.