Messi stars as Inter Miami overcome injuries to beat Nashville

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Inter Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino rued another addition to the team’s lengthy injury list but said the team continued to meet its “objectives” after Lionel Messi scored twice and added an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Nashville SC at Chase Stadium.

Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gómez suffered an ankle lesion in the first half of the match, forcing him to exit the field on a stretcher. The extent of the injury remains unknown, but Martino confirmed Gómez traveled to the hospital to undergo exams.

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“What we saw was clearly a twisted ankle, but what we need to determine is if it’s a common twist or if there’s more gravity to it,” Martino told a news conference. “This is what they are trying to discern right now [at the hospital].

“He was very hurt, the ankle was swollen, but we cannot make assumptions. The locker room reacted in the way they would with any hurt player, especially if he went down in the first half in a play without contact from another defender.

“It happened to us with Federico Redondo and his knee, Benjamin Cremaschi with his pubis and now Diego. We hope it’s nothing serious.”

Gómez now stands as the ninth player currently unavailable for Inter Miami due to injury, including Jordi Alba and Facundo Farias, leading Martino to once again lament Major League Soccer’s roster restrictions.

“I would like to do this with a full roster,” he said. “When a team has a player on a yellow, the logical thing would be to look to the bench for available players. Today, for some reason or another, we have seven or eight players out.

“In a league like MLS, that is so strict with roster rules, salary cap and academy players, we had to make certain movements to be able to count on [rookies] Yannick Bright and Leo Alfonso. It wasn’t easy because we had to include them in the principal roster, and that involves having less money for other signings. This isn’t an ease that the league grants, and we have to replace important players with two players we selected 60 days ago in a draft.

“I want to have all my players. The sensation is like I’m chasing after the carrot, ‘next week we’ll have everyone,’ and Diego falls. ‘Next week we’ll have everyone,’ and it’s someone else. This is what’s happening.”

Despite those struggles, Miami sits top of the Supporters’ Shield rankings, a far cry from last year when it missed out on the MLS playoffs.

“If all this happens, and we are accumulating 18 points, it doesn’t matter to be first or second [in the league]. But the 18 points, which is a lot more than we managed this time last year, [means] we are meeting our objective of getting points so that the second half of the year is not as demanding and dramatic as 2023 when we won three or four consecutive games but we’d lose one and lose hope of the playoffs.”

Miami has now recorded back-to-back victories, and Messi has nine goals and eight assists in nine games in all competitions so far this season.

Messi also laid on an assist for Sergio Busquets to celebrate his first goal for Miami since joining last July. The former Barcelona teammates connected on a corner to score the second goal of the night to put Miami ahead after conceding the opening goal in the second minute.

“I’m very happy to score and help the team,” Busquets told reporters. “Leo provided a really great corner kick and it was a matter of millimeters for me, it was lucky for me to get on it and score to help the team.

“I’m very happy [to get the assist from Messi]. I’m very happy with all that his presence means on a club level and off the field. We need to keep working to keep meeting our objectives.”