Inter Miami faced a huge blow on Wednesday night, as Lionel Messi picked up an injury that puts his US Open Cup Final status into question. Precisely one week out from the Argentine’s attempt to win a second trophy with the MLS club, he exited early with a muscle injury. Worse off, Jordi Alba also picked up an injury. Like Messi, the Spaniard needed a first-half substitution.

Lionel Messi recently missed both an Argentina World Cup Qualifier and an MLS game against Atlanta United. The former was because of a slight knock picked up against Bolivia. Argentine head coach Lionel Scaloni said Messi was not ready to play. Then, Inter Miami gave Messi the game off much to the gripe of traveling supporters in Atlanta.

Inter Miami manager Tata Martino says injuries to both Messi and Alba are unexpected. However, both are dealing with fatigue with the lack of a true offseason following their moves from Europe. Their status against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, Sep. 27 is uncertain.

“They trained normally, and we felt like they were ready to play,” Martino said after the match. “I don’t believe it’s anything new or anything worse than what they have. It’s fatigue. I don’t think it’s a muscular injury. But we have to continue being careful and we will look at the next few days.”

Fans hopeful for Messi appearance in the US Open Cup Final

That said, Martino did make it clear that if it is a more serious injury, he will not hesitate to keep Messi and Alba away from the pitch. He wants to allow them to recuperate properly rather than rushing back into another injury.

“I know we have a final to play, but they won’t go near the pitch if they can’t play.” Martino added that neither Messi nor Alba will play in Saturday’s MLS fixture away to Orlando City.

Fans had been lining up to watch Messi play in a Final at his new home stadium in Fort Lauderdale. This could have an impact on impending ticket sales for next Wednesday’s game. Inter Miami was preparing to charge upwards of $760 for official tickets to see Messi. Now, the demand for those tickets takes a major hit. TV broadcasters have enjoyed Messi’s time in Miami as well. US Soccer sold a global TV rights deal for the US Open Cup largely because of Messi’s presence in the competition. In the United States, the game will be available on the CBS Sports Golazo Network and Paramount+.

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Of course, Messi’s on-the-field presence is significant for Inter Miami, too. The Herons have not lost a game that Messi has played in. Even though he was a first-half substitute against Toronto FC, Inter Miami went on to win the game, 4-0. Messi’s replacement, Robert Taylor, scored a brace. However, without Messi starting, Inter Miami imploded against Atlanta, 5-2.

PHOTO: IMAGO & Icon Sportswire