Inter Miami held New York City FC to a 1-1 draw at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday night as Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba once again watched from the sidelines while recovering from injuries.
The two former FC Barcelona figures have now missed the last three matches, last making 30-minute appearances against Toronto FC on September 20.
Assistant coach Javier Morales confirmed on Friday the Spanish left-back suffered a hamstring injury, which will require a "longer recovery." But the team remains vague on Messi’s status, insisting his case stands on a "day to day" basis.
Ahead of the match against NYCFC, reporter Caden DeLisa claimed an MRI discovered a 2cm hamstring tear would "likely" rule out Messi for the remainder of the 2023 campaign but Martino discredited the report.
"It is what I said. We're going to see this as game to game. We're going to evaluate him [ahead of Wednesday’s match] against Chicago," he said.
"If he’s going to be on the bench, if he’s going to be out of the bench, whether against Chicago or Cincinnati [next weekend]. We're going to see that. He’s training on the field apart from the group, but he's feeling better and better...time will tell whether what I am saying is true or whether that person who made the report is right."
Messi joined Inter Miami in July, making his way directly into the starting 11 for the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament. The World Cup champion featured in all matches, inspiring the Herons to the trophy after a successful 7-game run that culminated with a 1-1 (9-10) win over Nashville SC in penalties.
He continued to play as the Herons climbed the Eastern Conference title in the hopes to secure a postseason slot, before participation came to a sudden halt during the Toronto match. Despite making the starting line up, the player exited in the 35th minute and headed directly for the Inter Miami locker room while grabbing his right-leg.
Without the key figure, the Herons have failed to win the last three matches. The team fell 1-2 to the Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final, and tied twice in regular-season MLS play.
Now, with four games left to be played and 12 much-needed points on the line, the South Florida side must earn positive results to climb out of 14th place on the Eastern Conference table and into a top nine slot.
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