Lionel Messi won’t play for Inter Miami in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday night. (Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
After a fantastic season, Inter Miami is set to play one of its biggest games of the year. The problem is, the team will have to do it without superstar Lionel Messi.
Messi was questionable to play in the U.S. Open Cup final against the Houston Dynamo leading up to the match on Wednesday night at DRV PNK Stadium in South Florida due to “fatigue.” Messi was then officially ruled out for the match about an hour before it was set to start.
Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said Messi wouldn’t play in the match if it were simply a regular-season Major League Soccer match. The U.S. Open Cup final carries more weight, and Martino and Messi met prior to the contest to determine his availability.
After dazzling all around the world, Messi joined Inter Miami in June. His impact was felt immediately. Messi scored nine goals in his first six games with the team, leading it to a Leagues Cup victory.
Messi and Inter Miami survived a wild match with FC Cincinnati and won on penalties 5-4 last month to reach the U.S. Open Cup final. Messi entered Wednesday night having missed or exited six straight games between club and country. He first “felt something” in his leg during Argentina’s win over Ecuador on Sept. 7. He left last week’s game against Toronto FC late in the first half, too.
A healthy Messi would have gone a long way for Inter Miami on Wednesday night, considering he turned one of the worst clubs in MLS completely around when he first arrived. It’s unclear how the club will fair against Houston — which beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 in its semifinals match, but is coming off a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City last week in MLS play — now that Messi isn’t available.
Follow along as Yahoo Sports provides the latest news, scores and injuries as Inter Miami takes on the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup final.