Messi and former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba both didn’t feature in last Saturday’s 5-2 setback at Atlanta United, a decision head coach Tata Martino attributed to “muscular fatigue." He also stressed the artificial turf surface at Mercedes-Benz Stadium wasn't a factor as the Herons’ 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions ended (Messi has previously stated he will play on turf).
But what about the Toronto match? Messi and Alba trained Tuesday, and Martino said they'll be assessed in advance of kickoff.
“Every player on our roster wants to play every match,” Martino said before the Matchday 33 test. “That is the mentality of our group. We have a lot of important matches in a short window of time, and one of my responsibilities as the coach is to care for my players and help them make the hard decisions that will give us the best chance of keeping everyone healthy during this busy run.
“Beginning on Wednesday, we have six matches in 18 days, which is one match every three days, including the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final."
Messi & Miami: Full sprint
As Martino noted, and highlighted after the Atlanta loss, Miami host Houston Dynamo FC for the USOC Final on Sept. 27. That match is a priority for the club and could provide Miami’s second trophy in five weeks after they won Leagues Cup in mid-August over Nashville SC (securing a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup berth).
All the while, Miami are also looking to climb into the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs race. They currently sit 14th in the East, seven points off the ninth-and-final postseason slot with seven games to go – affording little room for error in the buildup to Decision Day (Oct. 21).
For Messi, he's already accumulated 11 goals and eight assists in 11 games amid a jam-packed schedule. And just last week, he featured for Argentina in World Cup qualifiers, scoring a free-kick golazo against Ecuador before sitting out their trip to Bolivia. Beforehand, Messi played a game roughly every four days after joining Miami in mid-July.