"It’s clear that one of the problems we’ve had is the number of goals we’ve given up," Martino told local media before the club’s next test at Hong Kong Stadium. "Undoubtedly these games serve for us to find the team, to try to get the best performances out of our players."
So far, Miami haven't looked like the fearsome side that’s expected to contend for multiple trophies in 2024 behind Lionel Messi and fellow FC Barcelona legends Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Luis Suárez.
After opening their preseason with a scoreless draw at El Salvador, the Herons fell to FC Dallas before dropping consecutive decisions to Saudi Pro League leaders and runner-up Al-Hilal and Al Nassr.
"It we take our two games in Saudi Arabia, against the first and second-place teams, we competed well in the first game [a 4-3 loss]," said Martino. "And I think the second game [a 6-0 loss] was a total disappointment. If we guide ourselves a bit more based on that game, there’s truthfully a lot that the team needs to improve."
And yet Martino, who's previously led the likes of FC Barcelona and Argentina aside from lifting MLS Cup 2018 with Atlanta United, has ample experience guiding high-profile teams through difficult moments.
"As us coaches always say, you need your team to win, even if it’s preseason," Tata said, preferring to face hurdles and setbacks sooner than later. "But without a doubt, if you have to pick a time for this to happen and set off an important alarm regarding what’s happening, we prefer for it to happen before the season starts."
Even so, Martino is demanding a noticeable improvement from Miami on Sunday, their third-to-last preseason test. They'll also face Vissel Kobe in Japan (Feb. 7) before returning home to face Argentine side Newell's Old Boys (Feb. 15).
"We have to break out of this losing dynamic," Martino stated. "Obviously it’s a priority for us to win this game. And we’ll do it our own way."
More minutes for Messi?
Limited to a late substitute appearance off the bench against Al Nassr, Messi’s playing time against Hong Kong will be determined over the next 24 hours, according to Martino.
"The hope is for Leo to play the most amount of minutes possible," Tata stated. "So we’ll see how long he’ll be able to play based on what happens during tomorrow’s training session. But we’ll likely see him on the pitch."
With or without Messi, the Herons know they have not only the ability but also the obligation to perform at a level befitting their global status.
"Our expectation is to begin the MLS season the best way possible 20 days from now," Martino said. "Undoubtedly the results and the performances from the team in Saudi Arabia weren’t the best, and we hope to improve against Hong Kong."