Messi Kicks Off Playoff Push with Inter Miami Against Red Bulls


As the Major League Soccer regular season resumes, Inter Miami, now boosted by the presence of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, prepare to face the New York Red Bulls in a crucial matchup. Currently situated at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Miami aims to climb the ranks and secure a playoff spot.

Before the hiatus for Leagues Cup, Inter Miami struggled, enduring an 11-game winless streak and possessing the weakest record in the league. While many leagues would be focused on avoiding relegation in such circumstances, MLS operates with a playoff system that offers Miami a chance to compete for the MLS Cup under the leadership of Argentine coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

In MLS, the top nine teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs, with the top seven proceeding to the first round through a series of games. The eighth and ninth-placed teams engage in a single-elimination ‘wild card’ match to secure entry to the first round.

With only 12 games left and a 14-point gap behind the ninth-place team, Miami faces a challenging task to turn their MLS season around. Nonetheless, their recent performance since Messi’s arrival, coupled with the unbeaten streak of eight games (including penalty shootout victories), suggests that a playoff push is plausible.

However, the road ahead won’t be easy. Martino confessed that Messi and several other players are reaching their physical limits due to their recent intense efforts. “Both Leo and many other players are reaching an important physical limit and from today we will evaluate how we approach the next three matches. The fatigue is overcome with all the enthusiasm … I hope the team in the future could play better, but it’s very difficult to do that when you almost can’t rest,” Martino explained after the US Open Cup shootout victory over Cincinnati.

Given this context, it’s possible that Messi, Busquets, and Alba might start on the bench during the upcoming game at Red Bull Arena. Martino could opt to bring them on in the second half when needed.

The New York Red Bulls are currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, holding an 11-point advantage over Miami. The Red Bulls themselves are eager to secure a postseason spot.

In another matchup on Saturday, Eastern Conference leaders Cincinnati will host the 2021 champions New York City, while St. Louis City, enjoying a remarkable debut season, will play against Orlando City in the Western Conference. Additionally, defending champions Los Angeles FC will travel to North Carolina to face Charlotte FC.

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