Monday, June 17, 2024
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Lionel Messi scores, but Inter Miami’s unbeaten streak ends in defeat to Atlanta United

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Behind a spectacular double from Saba Lobjanidze, Inter Miami’s eight-match unbeaten run has come to a close in a 3-1 loss to Atlanta United. Lionel Messi’s return to the XI was marked with his 11th goal of the season, a 62nd-minute stunner but it wasn’t enough to to pull Miami to victory as another Argentine No. 10 stole the show in Thiago Almada.

Showing that the Herons’ defense is still a weak point, Almada’s return to the starting XI helped the Five Stripes push the pace and augment their strong defense. He has struggled with a calf injury that made him miss two matches but his presence in the center helped free up Lobjanidze as Atlanta outshot Miami 23-12 in their own home. 

The final score does show how dominant Atlanta were as they also won the expected goals battle 3.51-0.80. Now without Nicolas Freire in defense after he suffered an ACL injury in Miami’s victory over D.C. United, the holes at the back are beginning to show.

With players like Messi set to depart soon for Copa America, Miami’s worries will only grow larger. The Argentine could miss five games during the summer and if the defense can’t stop good teams from scoring then the Herons will only slip down the Eastern Conference. With 34 points through 17 matches played, they are only one point ahead of FC Cincinnati and other teams like New York City FC and the Columbus Crew have games in hand that could help them catch Tata Martino’s crew.

On the bright side, the summer transfer window will open soon and provide a chance for more reinforcements but there will also come a point where Miami can’t bring in a new player to solve every issue that they run into. With another tough test against St. Louis City SC coming over the weekend, it’s a chance to show that this match was a bump in the road instead of the beginning of a trend without Freire while for Atlanta it shows that the team should be in the mix for a conference title if they can find consistency. 

Giorgos Giakoumakis also made his return to the XI from the bench in the match giving Gonzalo Pineda his full attack to work with again. But as Atlanta will also miss players for upcoming summer tournaments, points now are critical as they never know what the summer will bring. 

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