Lionel Messi returned to the field for Inter Miami as they fought Cincinnati on a rainy night. While the Argentine’s team had high hopes for the postseason, they ultimately fell short after a 1-0 defeat.

In spite of the Herons’ tough playoff odds, the atmosphere at DRV PNK Stadium was upbeat before the game since Lionel Messi would be available again as a substitute.

The first half belonged to Miami, but despite having three good opportunities, they were unable to score, as all three attempts hit the woodwork.

Once the teams returned after the break, Cincinnati took control. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was sent out onto the pitch in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock. However, he could do very little since the away side finally scored with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Alvaro Barreal scored the go-ahead goal after Miami goalie Drake Callender mishandled a powerful attempt from Yuya Kubo. Despite their best efforts, the home team was unable to score the equalizer, much alone the game-winning goal they would have needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.

How did Messi fare against Cincinnati?

Messi’s two missed free kicks were his only significant contributions. Both attempts flew far past Roman Celentano’s crossbar in goal for Cincinnati, one in the 58th minute and the other in added time.

“His injury is healed, but his rhythm was just off”, Miami boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino remarked, via ESPN. “He hasn’t played much, that’s why I only played him 35 minutes.”

The Argentine veteran had played only 37 minutes total in his team’s previous six games leading up to Saturday, with Miami going winless five times without him.

What now for Messi?

The 36-year-old will report for international duties with Argentina for their World Cup qualifying campaign. The defending champions host Paraguay on Thursday and travel to Peru the following week.

Meanwhile, Messi won’t play in the Herons’ next match, which comes on October 18 and is a makeup against Charlotte FC.

If he recovers in time, he could be able to play in the second game, which is scheduled for the last day of the regular season and takes place in North Carolina.

Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire