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Facundo Farias’ season-ending injury adds to Inter Miami’s age problem: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez need support

By signing Lionel Messi and a trio of his former Barcelona teammates in recent months, Inter Miami have developed a reputation of enlisting buzzy players that also considerably drive up the average age of the squad. One important signing during that spell notably does not fit that mold, though — 21-year-old Facundo Farias.

The attacker joined Miami a few weeks after Messi did as someone who might start on the bench, but boasted enough promise to carve out a meaningful role for himself. He demonstrated that promise at times during his first half-season with the club, when he scored three goals and recorded two assists in 11 MLS games. Farias also notably became Messi’s understudy, popping into the lineup when the World Cup winner was either out with Argentina or sidelined with an injury, and was set to play that role again in 2024.

Farias’ first full season with Miami, though, came to an end before it truly got underway after he tore his ACL in the team’s first preseason match on Friday, a 0-0 draw against El Salvador’s national team. His injury forces the question: Who will take up the minutes that seemed destined to go his way this season?

If one preseason friendly is anything to go by, manager Gerardo Martino might play Messi and new signing Luis Suarez up top as often as possible and hope the two stay relatively fit. The MLS season is a long one, though, and especially so with the addition of Concacaf Champions Cup play, so there will be plenty of minutes up for grabs between minute management for the two 36-year-olds and other hurdles.

Even if the pair stay healthy for most of the season, the role of Messi and Suarez’s backups could be a meaty one. He is expected to be part of Argentina’s squad for the Copa America and will miss a chunk of time in the summer for that competition, and will likely also be missing during the March international break that will serve as the last window before the tournament. Suarez, Miami’s lone new forward signed so far this winter, will not be much help either — he is still a member of Uruguay’s national team and also seems destined to participate in the Copa America.

Forward Leonardo Campana seems poised to play a big role under these circumstances, especially considering last season’s output. The 23-year-old scored nine goals and notched three assists in 26 MLS games last season, and might find a way into the lineup regardless of Messi and Suarez availability. After him, though, the squad is full of young forwards who have yet to truly break into the team including Robbie Robinson, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 SuperDraft that spent much of last season sidelined with a muscle injury.

There’s still time to bring in reinforcements both before the season begins and during the summer, and if Messi delivers in a big way again in 2024, Miami might be able to coast with few complications. Without Farias in the rotation and a big year for others on the roster, though, Martino might be resigned to gambling their season on the health of two talented but aged players who are admittedly inching towards the end of their careers.

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