Messi a finalist for MLS award despite playing only 6 games

Lionel Messi was named on Thursday as one of three finalists for MLS‘ Newcomer of the Year award, despite playing in just six league matches during his debut season with Inter Miami.

Messi is nominated alongside Atlanta United striker Giorgos Giakoumakis and St. Louis City SC midfielder Eduard Löwen.

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The Argentine World Cup winner had also been listed as one of 30 nominees for the league’s MVP award earlier this month as one of two players put forward by Miami during the club-nomination phase.

However, he did not make the cut for the top three shortlisted on Thursday, missing out to FC Cincinnati front-runner Luciano Acosta, Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga of LAFC and Messi’s young Argentina teammate Thiago Almada of Atlanta.

Following his signing on a free transfer, Messi enjoyed a dream start to life in Miami. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 10 goals in seven games to lead the club to its first-ever trophy with the lifting of the Leagues Cup. He also played in Miami’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory over Cincinnati.

However, Messi’s appearances in MLS league play were limited by a leg injury suffered while on duty with Argentina in September. He was able to play just 372 minutes in six appearances (four starts), scoring one goal and providing two assists as Miami missed out on a place in the MLS playoffs.

Fellow nominee Giakoumakis finished second in the Golden Boot race with 17 goals and three assists in his first MLS season, while former Germany youth international Löwen had six goals and 14 assists in 29 appearances.

While Messi had limited impact on the field in his first season in MLS play, his arrival in the United States caused a surge in ticket and merchandising sales.

Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas said earlier this month that “everything has changed” since Messi’s arrival at the club. In a post on Instagram earlier this week, Messi said he was “proud of everything the team accomplished this season.”

The awards are voted on by current MLS players and coaches, technical directors/general managers and select media members. Winners will be announced throughout the MLS playoffs.

Full list of nominees:

Landon Donovan MLS MVP
Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati
Thiago Almada, Atlanta United
Denis Bouanga, LAFC

Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year
Bradley Carnell, St. Louis City SC
Wilfried Nancy, Columbus Crew
Pat Noonan, FC Cincinnati

MLS Newcomer of the Year
Giorgos Giakoumakis, Atlanta United
Eduard Löwen, St. Louis City SC
Lionel Messi, Inter Miami CF

MLS Young Player of the Year
Thiago Almada, Atlanta United
Duncan McGuire, Orlando City SC
Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew

MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
Roman Burki, St. Louis City SC
Roman Celentano, FC Cincinnati
Pedro Gallese, Orlando City SC

MLS Defender of the Year
Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Seattle Sounders FC
Matt Miazga, FC Cincinnati
Tim Parker, St. Louis City SC

MLS Comeback Player of the Year
Joao Paulo, Seattle Sounders FC
Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City
Miles Robinson, Atlanta United