Inter Miami’s ambitions of securing a spot in the MLS playoffs were dashed in a heart-wrenching 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on a rainy Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This crucial showdown marked the eagerly awaited return of Lionel Messi from injury.
Lionel Messi’s Return
Lionel Messi had been sidelined with a scar tissue injury in his leg since September 20. His comeback was highly anticipated, and he made a substitute appearance in the 55th minute of the match. However, despite Messi’s return, Inter Miami couldn’t salvage their playoff aspirations.
FC Cincinnati Secures Victory
In a turn of events that devastated Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati’s Alvaro Barreal found the back of the net in the 78th minute, securing a vital victory for his team. This defeat left Inter Miami (9-17-6, 33 points) on the brink of playoff elimination, with just two games left in the season and trailing the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by seven points.
FC Cincinnati’s Remarkable Season
In contrast, FC Cincinnati (20-5-8, 68 points) continued their remarkable season by clinching the Supporters’ Shield for the league’s best regular-season record. Despite controlling possession for 61.6 percent of the match, Inter Miami struggled to find the target, managing only two shots on goal out of their 16 attempts.
Near Misses in the First Half
During the first half, Inter Miami’s bad luck was evident as they struck the woodwork three times. Tomas Aviles, Josef Martinez, and Benjamin Cremaschi all came agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock.
Messi’s Efforts in Vain
Lionel Messi’s introduction in the second half provided a glimmer of hope for Inter Miami, but he was unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities. His free-kick attempt sailed over the crossbar, leaving Inter Miami frustrated.
FC Cincinnati Breaks Through
FC Cincinnati finally broke the deadlock when Alvaro Barreal capitalized on a parried shot by Miami’s goalkeeper, Drake Callender, in the 78th minute. Despite Messi’s late efforts, including two free-kick attempts and a shot on goal, Cincinnati managed to hold on for the win.
Bitter Defeat for Inter Miami
The defeat was a bitter blow for Inter Miami, extinguishing their playoff aspirations. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati celebrated their historic season with yet another victory, cementing their status as the team to beat in the MLS.