Messi — who scored both goals for Argentina in its 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Peru on Tuesday night — wasn’t in the lineup for Inter Miami’s final home game of its MLS season against Charlotte FC that ended 2-2 on Wednesday night.
Messi, dressed casually in a white T-shirt, was in the Inter Miami bench area with his teammates for Wednesday’s match after returning from Peru earlier in the day.
Messi told reporters in Peru that he wants to play once more for Inter Miami before his inaugural MLS season ends, which means he’s intending to play in the away fixture against Charlotte FC on Saturday — even though that match will be played on artificial turf.
“I’ll play the game that is left now,” Messi said.
Charlotte FC wasted a pair of one-goal leads in the draw with Inter Miami on Wednesday, missing out on a chance to climb from 12th to eighth in the Eastern Conference. The top nine teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Enzo Copetti and Kerwin Vargas scored for Charlotte. Nicolás Stefanelli and Robbie Robinson scored for Inter Miami, which could still thwart Charlotte FC’s playoff plans with a win Saturday depending on how other results on Decision Day in MLS goes. Charlotte FC stayed 12th, and now needs a win and some help to make the postseason.
Inter Miami was eliminated from MLS playoff contention earlier this month. Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said earlier this week that there was “a chance” Messi could play Saturday, and that the team would evaluate where he’s at physically upon his return to Miami following the qualifying games with Argentina.
He said after Wednesday’s match that he was sticking to that approach. Martino said he had heard what Messi said but didn’t fully commit to his captain playing Saturday.
“Tomorrow we’ll talk with him, but the most important thing here is the 90 minutes that were played … that he felt well, and he was confident and not worried about his injury,” Martino said. “We’ll talk again to see if he’s ready to play again.”
The hope of Messi playing has boosted ticket sales. Charlotte FC has sold more than 60,000 tickets in its 74,000-seat stadium for Saturday’s match, The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday.