There will be no Hollywood ending to Lionel Messi’s first season in Major League Soccer after his Inter Miami team were eliminated from contention for the playoffs after a 1-0 defeat at home to FC Cincinnati on Saturday.
Messi returned from injury as a substitute in the 55th minute but Cincinnati, who have earned top seed in the playoffs, grabbed the win with a goal from Argentine Alvaro Barreal.
With other results going against Miami, Messi’s side were left next to bottom of the Eastern Conference, seven points off the last playoff spot with just two games remaining, AFP reports.
Messi had played just 37 minutes for his club since September 3, having returned with an injury from international duty with Argentina last month.
Without him Miami struggled, paying the price for their successful run to the Leagues Cup title in August when Messi lit up the tournament and collected his first trophy since joining the club in July.
Saturday’s loss was the second straight for Miami following their 4-1 crushing at Chicago on Wednesday and Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s team have won just once in their last six MLS games.
Messi had played in the only win in that stretch, coming off in the first half of their 4-0 win over bottom club Toronto.
After the Leagues Cup triumph in Nashville on August 19, there was talk of Miami adding two more trophies this season but, without Messi, they lost their US Open Cup final to Houston and then faded out of contention in the league.
Miami’s final two games are both against Charlotte with the last on the road on October 21. It remains to be see if Messi, who has been called up for Argentina’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers, will feature.
Wayne Rooney’s D.C United were also eliminated from contention for the playoffs despite beating New York City FC 2-0 in their final game of the season.