After a fairy tale start to his Inter Miami career, Lionel Messi’s Major League Soccer (MLS) season ended in a 1-0 defeat on the road to Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.
Miami had already failed to make the playoffs but victory for Charlotte, courtesy of Kerwin Vargas’ strike in the 13th minute, meant the second-year franchise reached the playoffs for the first time.
Upon Messi’s arrival in July, Miami embarked on a club-record 12-game unbeaten streak and won its first trophy, the Leagues Cup, but ended the campaign without a win in seven, with Messi missing some of those games through injury.
“When we arrived, we had two competitions in which we had the potential to compete well: the Leagues Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. We were also involved in a tournament where we were in a complicated situation,” said head coach Gerardo Martino, per the club’s official site, who joined the club in June with the club bottom of its conference.
“Out of the three tournaments, one was won by Inter Miami. If, at the time of signing, you had told me that we were going to win one of the three tournaments, I would have certainly signed with my eyes closed.”
According to the MLS, 66,101 spectators attended the match, many no doubt there to watch Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and one of the best to have ever played the game.
The Argentine captained Miami and played the entire match. His curling free kick was pushed onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina in the in the 62nd minute and he also had a goal ruled out for offside early in the second half.
Miami ends the season 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, finishing with 34 points, while Messi concludes his campaign having scored 11 goals in 14 games in his debut season. (CNN)