Drake Callender on playing with and without Lionel Messi
The Inter Miami goalkeeper insisted that the squad’s mindset stays the same, regardless of whether Messi is on the field.
Inter Miami go into a crucial MLS fixture against New York City FC without knowing whether Lionel Messi will be fit to play any part.
The Argentine was a transformative presence during his first weeks in Miami but his ability to influence the team’s fortunes has been hampered by a spell of fitness issues.
Messi was not even fit enough for a place on the bench in the US Open Cup final on Wednesday, a game that Miami lost to Houston Dynamo. After the game Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was asked if Messi’s absence had made a difference.
“Yeah, there’s some difference. But I think the mindset’s the same,” Callender replied. “Whether he’s on the field or off the field we’ve proved that we can win games.”
Messi uncertainty should not affect Miami preparations
Callender was also asked about reports that the starting XI for the US Open Cup final was not confirmed until the day of the game, robbing the team of the chance to practice as a unit. However Callender insisted that the uncertainly over the lineup was not a factor in the defeat.
“I think every player prepares to start the game,” Callender explained.
“Whether you find out that you’re starting on the day of or the day before, I think everyone prepares in a way that you’re ready to go come game time.”
However the fitness of Lionel Messi looks set to be a major factor for Inter Miami in the final weeks of the MLS regular-season. The Herons are currently five points adrift of the final Wild Card playoff place and have just five matches remaining. The team currently occupying that final playoff place in the East are Saturday’s opponents, New York City.
What is Lionel Messi’s injury?
Messi, along with long-time teammate Jordi Alba, was substituted in the first half of Miami’s 4-0 victory over Toronto on 20 September. Since then the Argentine has not appeared in a draw against Orlando City and the US Open Cup defeat to Houston.
He is suffering from a scar-tissue problem that arose from a previous hamstring injury. Given his age the club are extremely reluctant to risk the 36-year-old exacerbating the issue in the remaining weeks of the season.
As was the case for the Open Cup final, it looks like a decision on Messi’s fitness will be made on Saturday ahead of kick-off at DRV PNK Stadium.