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Messi scores goal, but Inter Miami falls 3-1 to Atlanta United

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Lionel Messi returned to action, rested and engaged. But most of his Inter Miami teammates felt the ill-effects of the longest road trip in Major League Soccer on Wednesday night.

Messi scored in the 62nd minute, but Inter Miami fell 3-1 to Atlanta United at Chase Stadium – four days after the club won 2-1 at Vancouver without Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets.

Saba Lobjanidze scored in the 44th and 59th minutes for a brace, while Jamal Thiaré finished a sliding goal in the 73rd minute to help Atlanta win its fourth match of the MLS season and hand Inter Miami its third loss of the season.

“The truth is we were missing a gear,” Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said after the loss. “Let’s say it was a night where the team went backwards compared to other matches, where we always found positive moments, even in difficult moments.”

The good news for Inter Miami: It retains first place in the MLS Eastern Conference with FC Cincinnati one point behind in the standings after Cincinnati lost 2-0 at home to Nashville.

Messi, Suárez and Busquets returned to action for the first time since May 18, given 10 days between matches to rest and recuperate — and avoid travel to and from South Florida to Vancouver last weekend.

Inter Miami plays again on Saturday night against St. Louis City, which ranks 11th out of 14 teams in the MLS Western Conference. But it’s not yet definitive Messi, the 2022 World Cup champion who will captain Argentina in Copa América next month, will play on Saturday. His status will likely be decided after Friday’s practice.

Messi could use the work to maintain his form before Copa América, which could be the final major tournament he’ll play for Argentina in his legendary career. He turns 37 on June 24.

Messi appeared healthy as a lingering left leg injury, a blow he took at Montreal on May 11, did not affect him against Atlanta.

Messi nearly scored on a header in the opening minutes, but his dive toward the net ended with the ball sailing over it.

Messi, Suárez and Jordi Alba forced the issue offensively in the first half, but they were unable to find holes in Atlanta’s steadfast defense.

As the first half neared its end, Inter Miami’s fatigue from travel and nighttime humidity showed as Lobjanidze scored before halftime.

While Messi’s goal reignited Inter Miami and its home crowd, the goal by Thiaré proved to be the dagger.

Inter Miami has won just one of six matches played on a Wednesday this season, a 3-1 win over Nashville in the Concacaf Champions Cup being the lone exception.

“When a team gets defeated like we did, it’s an excuse to talk about the trip or the calendar,” Martino said.

Jamal Thiaré goal: Atlanta United 3, Inter Miami 1

Inter Miami is on the brink of defeat.

Jamal Thiaré finished a sliding goal in the 73rd minute to give Atlanta a 3-1 lead against Inter Miami.

The play was orchestrated by Thiago Almada, and Caleb Wiley delivered the assist.

Messi scores goal to respond: Atlanta United 2, Inter Miami 1

Messi has responded to Inter Miami’s 2-0 deficit with a goal in the 62nd minute, a strike that found the bottom right corner of the net.

The quick response in Messi’s goal has reignited the home crowd at Inter Miami’s Chase Stadium.

Saba Lobjanidze scores again for brace: Atlanta 2, Inter Miami 0

It might not be Inter Miami’s night.

Saba Lobjanidze scored in the 59th minute to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead over Inter Miami in the second half.

Atlanta’s Thiago Almada navigated the steal from Inter Miami’s stars and Lobjanizde doubled their lead.

Messi slips, misses shot on goal: Atlanta 1, Inter Miami 0

A swing and a miss in the 55th minute by Messi, who also slipped after his latest shot attempt in the second half.

Inter Miami’s Matias Rojas, who has scored three goals this season, has entered the match for Julian Gressel.

Saba Lobjanidze goal: Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 0

Messi and Inter Miami are out of sorts in the first half and they fell behind just before halftime.

Atlanta United’s Saba Lobjanidze scored in the 44th minute to help his side take a 1-0 lead over Inter Miami.

Messi, Alba, Suárez try to connect again, but offsides: Inter Miami 0, Atlanta 0

Messi, Alba and Suárez performed a set piece after a corner kick, to no avail.

Alba found Messi streaking down the right side, and Messi used his head to find Suarez cutting toward the net. But the ball appeared to be deflected by Atlanta United goalie Josh Cowen in the 26th minute.

Messi drives downfield, Suárez misses shot: Inter Miami 0, Atlanta 0

Messi pursued an opportunity with a full head of steam from midfield, and dropped off a pass to his right to Julian Gressel. But Gressel veered offsides after dropping off a pass to Luis Suárez, who kicked it directly to Atlanta United goalie Josh Cowen in the 19th minute.

One minute later, Messi chipped a pass in the goal area to Robert Taylor, who was unable to handle it.

Messi misses diving header in early minutes: Inter Miami 0, Atlanta 0

Messi made a hard run toward the net, and tried to use his head to find the back of the net. But Messi’s shot bounced over the net in the fourth minute.

Messi got up after his dive with a thumbs-up for Jordi Alba, who delivered the pass into the goal area.

Messi, striker Luis Suárez and midfielder Sergio Busquets are in the starting lineup again after missing the Vancouver match last Saturday.

A new addition to the starting lineup is midfielder Federico Redondo, who returned from a knee injury to play against Vancouver. He replaces Benjamin Cremaschi, who will likely enter as a substitute.

Is Messi playing tonight?

Yes, Messi is expected to play against Atlanta, after staying home in South Florida and missing Inter Miami’s 2-1 win at Vancouver. He’s in the startling lineup.

TICKETS: Experience Messi and Inter Miami in person when they host Atlanta United FC

SHOP: Get the latest Messi and Inter Miami team gear from the MLS Store

How to watch Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United live stream

Inter Miami and Atlanta begin play at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Chase Stadium. The game is available via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Messi, Inter Miami arrive at Chase Stadium

Messi and his Inter Miami teammates have arrived at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for tonight’s game against Atlanta United. The players were spotted leaving their bus shortly after 6 p.m. ET.

Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United prediction

Inter Miami 3, Atlanta United 0: Messi returns to form with a goal and assist, Suárez adds another goal, and Benjamin Cremaschi scores as goalkeeper Drake Callender has a shutout. —Safid Deen, Lionel Messi reporter

Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United betting odds

Inter Miami is a -225 favorite at home, while Atlanta is a +380 underdog with +450 odds to draw, according to BETMGM.

What’s at stake as Inter Miami hosts Atlanta United?

Meanwhile, Atlanta is 12th among 15 Eastern Conference teams with 14 points from three wins, four draws and seven losses.

A win would increase Inter Miami’s lead in the East.

Messi shines in Bad Boys movie promo with Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Jimmy Butler

Messi speaks in English, and delivers the punchline in a hilarious promo for “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.’

Why did Messi not travel, play in Vancouver?

Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets did not travel to Vancouver for rest purposes – to avoid the cross-continent journey from South Florida – with home games on tap tonight and Saturday, especially with Copa América on deck.

All three are expected to play Wednesday and Saturday vs. St. Louis City.

Messi’s upcoming Inter Miami, Argentina schedule

Messi is expected to play again Saturday as Inter Miami hosts St. Louis City. Then, he’ll join Argentina for Copa América training.

Messi will participate in Argentina friendlies or Copa América warmup matches in Chicago on June 9 and the Washington D.C. area on June 14.

Then, Messi and Argentina take center stage in the Copa América opener against Canada in Atlanta on June 20.

Here’s more info on Messi and Argentina’s Copa América schedule.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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