Lionel Messi suffered his first defeat for Inter Miami on Saturday, succumbing to a 1-0 loss against FC Cincinnati which ended the club’s hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Messi had missed Miami’s last four games due to injury and the club faltered in his absence, losing two and drawing two of its fixtures. He returned to the field for just over half an hour on Saturday but was unable to prevent Cincinnati from taking the lead after 78 minutes thanks to Álvaro Barreal’s strike.
The defeat eliminated Miami from contention with two games remaining. He had missed five of the team’s six previous games in all competitions because of a leg injury. He made an immediate impact, drawing a foul and free kick in the 59th minute. But his shot from 25 yards sailed high and wide.
“His injury is healed, but his rhythm was just off,” Miami’s head coach Gerardo Martino said, according to ESPN. “He hasn’t played much, that’s why I only played him 35 minutes.”
Miami had won eight times with Messi on the side since he joined the club, and just once with him absent. The Argentine will now join up with his international squad for its World Cup qualifying matches against Paraguay on October 13 and Peru on October 18.