Three games (all competitions) and almost two weeks since Messi last suited up for the Herons, head coach Gerard Martino once again said the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is “day to day."
“He should be training,” Tata told reporters on the eve of the club’s vital Matchday 36 clash. “… It could be today or tomorrow. The thing is tomorrow is a match day. Maybe he does the first part of training, the warm-up, but only because it’s a question of the quality of the training.”
Martino also defended his inability to provide an exact timeline on Messi, whose muscle fatigue caused by scarring from a past injury forced him to make an early exit – along with fellow FC Barcelona legend Jordi Alba – from Miami’s 4-0 win over Toronto FC on Sept. 20. Neither have played since.
“I would say ‘one month’ if I knew it was one month,” the Argentine manager stated. “… I make a huge mistake if I say something hastily. That’s why I avoid exact times. I understand your desire to have exact times, but if I had exact times I would share them. But I don’t have them either.”
Tata was more forthcoming in regards to striker Leo Campana, who he ruled out for Wednesday night at sold-out Soldier Field due to a “slight injury.” As for Alba, the 34-year-old left back is expected to return for Miami’s Oct. 18 showdown with Charlotte FC – three days before their Decision Day rematch to close out the season.
“We'll see if [Campana] returns in time for [Saturday’s match against] Cincinnati,” Martino said. “In the case of Leo Messi, as we’ve said these last days, we’ll see in training, we’ll see if there is any risk and we’ll decide if it’s convenient or not for him to travel.”
With Campana out, fellow striker Josef Martínez is poised to lead Miami’s attack in a game that is practically must-win to keep the club’s Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoff hopes intact.
“Those that play, we all know what we have to do,” the 30-year-old Venezuelan international said. “These are finals we have to play, because for us they’re finals and we have to get the most points possible."
The Herons currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, four points off the ninth-and-final postseason spot with four games remaining. They need to reach ninth place to earn a Wild Card spot.
Regardless of how the final stretch pans out, Martínez is proud of the turnaround Miami produced in the second half of the season – most notably their Leagues Cup 2023 title and run to the US Open Cup Final.
“Compared to the way the year started to how it’s ending, we have to be happy,” Martínez said. “We played two finals, we achieved an objective.”