The last time Atlanta United and Inter Miami CF met, in the Leagues Cup group stage, Lionel Messi made his first start in heron pink and scored twice before ATLUTD seemed to realize what was going on.
That naivety will not be on display this time round, and this game provides an opportunity for redemption on home soil.
Jack Collins here from The Game Day to look at a matchup between two sides still harboring big postseason ambitions in MLS Matchday 32, which is set for Saturday, September 16.
Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF Odds
Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF betting lines are current as of Thursday, September 14, at 10 am ET at bet365 Sportsbook.
- 3-Way Moneyline: Atlanta United (+155) • Tie (+275) • Inter Miami (+160)
- Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-211) • Under 2.5 (+160)
- Both Teams To Score: Yes (-250) • No (+175)
Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF Match Prediction
Atlanta United 2:2 Inter Miami CF
The Leagues Cup fixture between these two would have been scarring for Atlanta United, but there were mitigating circumstances.
Although Lionel Messi opened his Inter Miami account with a stunning free-kick in the dying embers of the home side’s previous encounter with Cruz Azul, the clash with Atlanta United would prove to be his full debut, and the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner graced the occasion with a mesmeric performance that anyone would have struggled to deal with.
His presence, alongside that of former FC Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, has galvanized a side that looked to have written off all hope of a playoff campaign. But Inter Miami’s win over Sporting Kansas City last weekend showed they are far more than just a one-man team.
In Messi's absence due to international duty with Argentina, Ecuadorian No. 9 Leonardo Campana stepped up to the plate, scoring twice in the first half to make sure the Inter Miami train remained firmly on course for a miraculous second-half turnaround this season.
And to mark the card of Ecuador manager Félix Sánchez, who passed up on the opportunity to call Campana up to his national team squad despite his performances and seven MLS goals this season. The Herons will be grateful he didn’t, and the Florida club continued to move into the playoff picture. What felt unthinkable just a few weeks ago now feels eminently possible.
They might remain 14th, five places outside of the play-in spots, but Inter Miami are now just six points behind D.C. United for that final spot, with two games in hand to play.
They are unbeaten in 12 games across all competitions, with the Herons hitting supersonic form just as many of their opponents are falling away, stumbling under the pressure of expectation, fatigue, or injury. The greatest ‘remontada’ in MLS history remains firmly on course.
Yet, in Atlanta United, they come up against an opponent with both a need for points themselves and a thirst for victory that goes beyond just revenge for two precious losses in all competitions this year.
That’s because Atlanta United have history with two key members of this Inter Miami side. Coach Tata Martino was the man at the helm when the Five Stripes won their only MLS Cup back in 2018, while Josef Martinez was their star striker and leading light.
Martinez won MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi and Landon Donovan MLS MVP prizes after netting 35 goals in 39 games in all competitions.
The two men will always be held in high esteem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, given their exploits at the club, but Atlanta will want to prove a point against their former heroes. And they have new ones with which to do it.
Thiago Almada is not only seen as one of the best players in MLS, but also a part of Argentina's national team. When an apprentice faces a master, all bets are off.
And Giorgios Giakoumakis is doing his best to make the Atlanta crowd forget the absence of Martinez with his own scoring exploits. The Greek hitman has notched 13 times in 21 league games for the Five Stripes since joining in the winter, including three in his last four games since MLS restarted after Leagues Cup.
Atlanta United have scored in every league game since June and in every home league game this entire season, so the firepower is undoubtedly there to hurt Inter Miami.
Their defensive record, though, remains a bit of a worry, so back goals, entertainment, and a high-octane contest that should be spectacular viewing.
Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF Best Bets
Both Teams To Score: Yes (-250) • bet365 Sportsbook
Inter Miami have Messi back, a charge at the playoffs to continue, and they’re coming up against the team with the most goals conceded in the entire Eastern Conference.
Atlanta United almost always score at home and have their own playoff ambitions to nurture. This is the banker.
Giorgios Giakoumakis Anytime Goalscorer (+105) • bet365 Sportsbook
Three in four for the big Greek goalscorer since MLS returned, and a clean bill of health across the last couple of games.
When he’s fit and firing, there are few better marksmen in the league than Giakoumakis, and he will expect to strike against an Inter Miami team that, for all their star power, still has issues defensively.