What was Inter Miami’s last game without Lionel Messi?
The Argentinian World Cup winner has transformed the worst team in MLS. We take a look at pre-Messi Miami.
Inter Miami take on Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, forced to play without Lionel Messi for the first time since he transformed their fortunes.
The 36-year-old is away on international duty with Argentina and is unavailable for the MLS side. When Messi made his debut for Inter Miami on 21 June he joined up with a team that was bottom of the Eastern Conference, had the fewest points in MLS, and was without a win in 11 games.
In their final game before the arrival of Messi - as well as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba - Miami were beaten 3-0 by St. Louis City SC. They had 64% of the possession against St. Louis but were found sorely lacking in the final third with no one there to provide the killer pass or final touch.
Campana confident that Miami can keep Messi’s standards
Messi has had an immediate impact on his team’s fortunes but there is hope that his influence is not limited to the moments when he is on the field. The fresh impetus and added confidence brought by his arrival should have helped to raise the standards of every player at the club.
Speaking ahead of the clash with Kansas City, striker Leonardo Campana was confident that Miami could continue their fine recent form.
“Obviously we’re going to feel [Messi’s absence], but we have players with a lot of quality,” he told reporters.
“Leo has raised everybody’s level, our level of confidence. But we’re a totally different team now and I’m sure tomorrow we’ll end up with all three points.”
Campana is expected to start on Saturday, due to the international break absences of Messi, striker Josef Martinez and winger Robert Taylor.
Lionel Messi’s record with Inter Miami
In almost every regard, Lionel Messi’s impact at Inter Miami has exceeded all expectations. Tickets for Miami games have been amongst the most expensive in American sport since Messi arrived and the commercial boost to the league’s MLS Season Pass has been astonishing.
But the success of the Messi project will always be defined by his performances on the pitch; in that regard there can be no doubt about his value to Miami.
In his 11 games with the team Miami are yet to lose, while Messi has personally contributed 11 goals and five assists for the team.
Alongside the personal record, Miami have lifted the Leagues Cup - the first trophy in their history - and have secured passage to the final of the US Open Cup. On Saturday night we’ll see if a Messi-less Miami are as impressive against Kansas City.