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Messi sits as Monterrey tops Miami in CCC 1st leg

Lionel Messi looked on from the sidelines as Inter Miami CF lost 2-1 to Monterrey in the first leg of the teams’ Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jorge Rodriguez netted a stellar goal late in the game to give Monterrey the win on the night, as Messi was seated at field level supporting his teammates in their quest for a second trophy since his arrival in the summer of 2023.

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Messi has been dealing with a right hamstring issue for nearly a month, and though he trained with the rest of the squad on Tuesday, Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino told media ahead of the match that he wouldn’t risk further injury to his star player.

After the match, Martino reiterated the team’s stance on Messi: “Like we said, he’s game to game. This wasn’t the game he wasn’t ready. This is how we’ll approach the match against Colorado [on Saturday] and the second leg against Monterrey.

“Every day he feels better, but today felt like too high a risk.”

Messi’s former Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba started for Miami against a Monterrey side that is second in the Liga MX Clausura. It beat MLS side FC Cincinnati 3-1 on aggregate to reach the quarters.

Tomás Avilés opened the scoring for the home side in the first half from a corner kick, but Monterrey struck back through Maximiliano Meza minutes after Miami’s David Ruiz was sent off in the 65th minute with his second yellow card of the night.

With Miami trying to hold on for the draw down a man, Rodriguez blasted a shot from outside the box past Drake Callender to give his team the win and another away goal ahead of the second leg on April 10 in Mexico, in which Miami will be desperate for its star player to be available.

“Today, given the situation and the rival we had in front of us, knowing Monterrey had a full squad while we had important absences, I liked the way we competed,” Martino added. “We did well. If I review the bits of the game that I have in my head, we didn’t suffer from goal-scoring situations. The set piece-play that led to the equalizer was unfortunate for us, then the 2-1 goal from the midfield is a product of the hierarchy that the rival has.

“But really, we competed well and that’s what I think is important and attractive for the team.

Monterrey head coach Fernando Ortiz said he had mixed feelings about Messi being held out of the game: “I admire Leo, sportingly. I keep watching and keep admiring. I want to play against him, but I want my team to win.”

Messi last played on March 13, making a 50-minute appearance for Miami against Nashville SC in the second leg of the Champions Cup round of 16. Despite the early substitution, the Miami star contributed to the 3-1 victory with a goal and an assist.

“We played against Nashville [in the round of 16],” Martino said. “But when one gets [into] to the later rounds and begins playing important games against the best teams of the continent, it’s a lesson for the club. The younger players and in that situation, we matched the level of the game.

“I cannot find points where I can say the team suffered for a specific reason. Maybe at certain points we went back especially in the second half, but I thought we were organized, we cut away and went well to the spaces. I don’t have anything particularly important to point out as negative.”

Overall, Messi has scored five goals and added two assists in five matches across all competitions for Miami this season before getting injured. He also missed both of Argentina‘s friendlies in the last international window due to the injury.

The MLS side bypassed the initial round of the Champions Cup by winning the inaugural edition of Leagues Cup in 2023, before beating Nashville in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals.

The next match for Messi and Miami is an MLS home game against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. It is unknown at this time whether he will be available for that game.

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