Messi out: He cannot 'play freely' in his current condition

Inter Miami heads into Sunday's Florida derby against Orlando City with its MLS playoff destiny in its own hands but without Lionel Messi.

Messi and former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba both limped out of the first half of Wednesday's 4-0 win over Toronto FC and were immediately ruled out of the Orlando game by Coach Tata Martino.

On Friday, Martino confirmed that Messi is coping with some old "scars" while Alba has "muscle fatigue."

Martino said that while Messi's problem is not serious, he cannot "play freely" in his current condition.

"It's bothers him. I don't know if it hurts. I can't really explain as it's more a medical topic," said the Argentine coach.

Miami, which already won the Leagues Cup since Messi's arrival, will play in the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston on Wednesday and will hope to have the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner back for that game.

But without Messi, Finnish winger Robert Taylor made the most of his opportunity, scoring twice in a 4-0 win over Toronto.

The victory, along with other results going Miami's way, boosted the team's playoff hopes with six matches remaining in the regular season.

Put simply, if Miami, with games in hand, win all six matches, they will earn a place in the playoffs, regardless of how teams above them perform.

Orlando City still smarts from a 3-1 loss to Miami in the League Cup when Coach Oscar Pareja blasted the refereeing, saying the game, Messi's third with Miami, had been a "circus."

The Lions, second in the East, are one of four teams in the Eastern Conference to have secured a playoff berth, along with Columbus, Philadelphia and Supporters' Shield leader FC Cincinnati.


© Agence France-Presse

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