, Messi-less Miami crushed 5-2 in Atlanta -

Messi-less Miami crushed 5-2 in Atlanta

Lionel Messi was rested, and Inter Miami lost for the first time since the Argentine joined the team. On Saturday, a 5-2 thrashing against Atlanta United ended their playoff ambitions.

After a busy stretch of games after making his Miami debut in late July, Messi did not travel to Atlanta.

Messi had been experiencing “muscle fatigue,” according to Miami coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, who claimed it would have been “very reckless” to start him in this game.

The 36-year-old missed Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying match between Argentina and Bolivia in La Paz but nevertheless stayed on the bench and watched his teammates play.

Miami upset Sporting Kansas City 3-2 the week before without Messi, but this time it was an entirely different scenario for Martino’s squad.

With a beautifully executed goal in the 25th minute, Ecuadorian striker Leonardo Campana gave Miami the lead.

But Atlanta, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference, responded forcefully, scoring three goals in just eight minutes.

The assistant referee determined that French player Tristan Muyumba’s glancing header, which touched the inside of the post, had crossed the line.

Atlanta took the lead five minutes later when Brazilian winger Xande Silva dribbled to the byline and Miami defender Kamal Miller turned his pull-back into his own net.

Without veteran Spain international left-back Jordi Alba, Miami’s defense was in disarray. Brooks Lennon added the third with a beautifully executed shot in the 44th minute.

Miami got back into the game in the 54th minute thanks to a Campana penalty, but this time there was no comeback like they were accustomed to with Messi.

Atlanta got them on the break as they sought for an equalizer, and Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis scored his 14th goal of the year to tie for the joint-most goals in MLS.

In the 89th minute, Tyler Wolff scored the fifth goal after Saba Lobzhanidze set him up with another well-executed break.

Miami continues to sit in last place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind D.C. United, who holds the final playoff slot in ninth place.

Martino justified his choice to keep Messi and Alba at home because of a tight schedule that included league games on Wednesday and Sunday before the US Open Cup final on September 27. Martino claimed that Alba also felt muscle weariness.

If they came to play this game, we ran the possibility of worse outcomes, the coach claimed.

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