Lionel Messi’s recurrence of “an old injury” against Toronto FC on Wednesday night dealt Inter Miami a setback.
Messi has developed a strong body of work ever since joining the MLS team, contributing 11 goals and five assists in his 11 outings.
Inter Miami, despite their difficulties in the MLS, have Messi on their team and have won the League’s Cup. They are also in the US Open Cup final.
The 36-year-old, who was forced off against Toronto in the first half, now seems to be a serious doubt to play in the championship match against Houston Dynamo next week.
Before leaving the match in the 37th minute, the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player was playing only his third league game.
Messi left the game two minutes after Jordi Alba did the same due to a fitness concern, but Inter Miami still defeated the bottom-placed team in the Eastern Conference by a score of 4-0.
Messi won’t play in the weekend’s MLS match, according to head coach Gerardo Martino, who also said it will be a race against time for him to recover for the next match.
Martino told reporters: “There is no chance they will be there on Sunday,” as reported by BBC Sport.
“I know we have a final to play [on Wednesday], but they won’t go near the pitch if they can’t play.”
Before being reinserted into the lineup, Messi had missed Argentina’s second match of the international break and the 5-2 loss to Atlanta United the previous weekend.
“The scans [Messi] had with the national team didn’t show any injury,” continued Martino. To be safe, we still saved him.
“We don’t believe he’s injured his muscles. That was also mentioned in a recent conversation I had with him. But we must maintain our caution. Within the next few days, we’ll examine it.
Messi has played in barely half of Inter Miami’s six MLS games since his summer transfer, but the team is still in the playoff hunt with a six-point lead over the Eastern Conference playoffs and a game remaining.