Lionel Messi's Inter Miami eliminated from MLS Playoff Contention, Wayne Rooney departs DC Unitedtext_fields
In a disappointing turn of events for Lionel Messi's debut season in Major League Soccer (MLS), his team, Inter Miami, was eliminated from playoff contention following a 1-0 home defeat to FC Cincinnati.
This outcome marked the end of any Hollywood-style ending to Messi's first MLS campaign.
DC United also missed out on securing a playoff spot and subsequently announced the departure of their English manager, Wayne Rooney, by mutual agreement, reported AFP.
Inter Miami's loss to Cincinnati was sealed by a goal from Argentine player Alvaro Barreal. Messi, who returned from injury as a substitute in the 55th minute, made a limited impact during the match. Despite having two free-kick opportunities within his shooting range, both of his attempts missed the target.
Miami's head coach, Gerardo Martino, attributed Messi's performance to a lack of recent game time, noting that Messi had played only 32 or 33 minutes due to injury. With this defeat and other unfavorable results, Messi's team found themselves second to last in the Eastern Conference, trailing the last playoff spot by seven points with only two games remaining in the season.
Messi's playing time for the club had been restricted due to his injury, as he had played just 37 minutes since September 3. This injury had occurred during international duty with Argentina the previous month.
Inter Miami's struggles without Messi were evident, especially considering their successful run to win the Leagues Cup title in August, where Messi had played a pivotal role. However, their form had declined recently, with Saturday's loss marking their second consecutive defeat following a 4-1 loss to Chicago. In their last six MLS games, Martino's team had secured only one victory, in which Messi had played a significant role.
While hopes had been high after winning the Leagues Cup in August, Miami's season took a different trajectory. They lost the US Open Cup final to Houston and gradually fell out of playoff contention in the league.
Coach Martino, who had taken charge just before Messi's arrival, expressed his initial expectations for the season to be the opposite of what transpired. He had aimed to build the team's cohesion, perform well in the Leagues Cup, and qualify for the playoffs. However, the season had not unfolded as planned.
In light of the challenges faced by Inter Miami, including Messi's injury and their subsequent drop in form, the Leagues Cup victory was a significant achievement for the club.
Inter Miami's remaining two games are against Charlotte, with the last match scheduled for October 21. Whether Messi will feature in these matches remains uncertain, as he has been called up for Argentina's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
In parallel, Wayne Rooney's tenure as the manager of DC United came to an end after they failed to qualify for the playoffs despite a 2-0 victory over New York City FC in their final game of the season. Rooney expressed that it was the right time for him to depart, having given his all to guide the club to the playoffs.
In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Galaxy, five-time MLS champions, also missed out on the playoffs after a 5-2 defeat to Minnesota United. Finnish striker Teemu Pukki scored four second-half goals for Minnesota.
Austin, who had reached the Western Conference final last year, had their postseason hopes dashed with a 4-2 home loss to LAFC, the reigning champions.
Finally, Houston, the US Open Cup winners, boosted their chances of securing a top-four finish and home-field advantage in the playoffs by defeating Colorado 5-1, with Nelson Quinones scoring a brace.