Inter Miami reach Champions Cup QF, but lose Lionel Messi to injury

Argentine striker Lionel Messi is expected to miss Inter Miami's next match because of a leg injury. File Photo by Larry Marano/UPI
Argentine striker Lionel Messi is expected to miss Inter Miami's next match because of a leg injury. File Photo by Larry Marano/UPI | License Photo

March 14 (UPI) -- Lionel Messi scored and added an assist to help Inter Miami beat Nashville SC and advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals, but later left the match with an injury, which is expected to cause an absence.

Messi scored in the 23rd minute of the 3-1 triumph Wednesday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Fellow striker Luis Suarez also logged a goal and assist for the Herons. Forward Robert Taylor, who replaced Messi in the 50th minute, netted the Herons' third score.


"Every game is like do or die, so it's a great feeling to go through," Taylor told reporters, when asked about the Herons moving on to the quarterfinals.

The Herons will play the first leg of their Champions Cup quarterfinal April 2 against either FC Cincinnati or CF Monterrey. They will battle DC United in an MLS match Sunday in Washington.


Herons manager Tata Martino said Messi, who slowly walked off the pitch when leaving Wednesday's match, sustained a leg injury and likely won't play against DC United. Messi also went down March 7 with a lower-leg/ankle injury in the first leg of the Round of 16 matchup, which ended in a 2-2 draw, but was able to finish that match.

"I don't want to risk it, but I would imagine for Saturday's match he will not be available," Martino said. "Looking ahead, we'll evaluate. He'll get some imaging done. And we'll see how it develops."

The Herons drew first blood in the 8th minute when Messi assisted Suarez on Wednesday at Chase Stadium.

That score came when Messi carried the ball about 5 yards above the box. He the slid a pass through two defenders, leading Suarez toward the far post. The Uruguayan striker finished the play by booting a shot into the lower-right corner of the net.

The Coyotes came close to an equalizer before Messi doubled the lead in the 23rd minute, beating goalie Joe Willis for a 2-0 advantage.


Winger Diego Gomez weaved his dribble into the box to spark that score. He then slipped a crafty pass to Messi, who brought in the feed and used his left boot to blast a shot into the back of the net.

Taylor pushed the lead to 3-0 when he scored less than 15 minutes after replacing Messi. That goal came when Suarez chipped a pass over a group of defenders, leading Taylor toward the near post. The Herons forward then jumped and flicked his head toward the ball, sending it through a narrow gap and beating Willis.

Coyotes winger Hany Mukhtar appeared to cut into the deficit with a sliding score in the 80th minute, but that goal was disallowed because of an offside call.

Fellow midfielder Sam Surridge finally scored the Coyotes lone goal in stoppage time, beating Herons goalie Drake Callender with a tap-in shot from point-blank range in the 93rd minute.

The Herons will face D.C. United at 2 p.m. EDT Saturday at Audi Field. They sit atop the MLS standings with a 2-1-1 record through four matches of the 2024 campaign.


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