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Lionel Messi's Debut MLS Season: Highs and Lows

Lionel Messi's arrival at Inter Miami had soccer fans around the world buzzing with excitement. The prospect of the legendary Argentinian playing in Major League Soccer (MLS) was a dream come true for many. However, as the 2023 MLS season came to a close, it was clear that Messi's first stint in the United States had its share of highs and lows.

On a Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, Messi donned the iconic black and pink "La Noche" Inter Miami jersey for the first time since his move to the club in late July. The match against Charlotte FC was significant in its own right, but it held no bearing on the postseason, as Inter Miami had already been eliminated earlier in the month.

Despite the circumstances, Messi was anything but lackluster on the field. He gave it his all, showing the same competitive spirit and enthusiasm that has made him one of the greatest players of all time. However, the soccer gods didn't seem to favor him that night. A goal was negated due to an offside call, and a free kick struck the crossbar, leaving Messi and Inter Miami frustrated.

The lone goal of the match came in the 13th minute when Kerwin Vargas found the back of the net for Charlotte FC. Inter Miami had two goals disallowed due to offside penalties, and Charlotte's goalie, Kristijan Kahlina, made critical saves in the closing minutes, denying both a header by Leo Campana and a corner kick from Messi. These moments encapsulated a season filled with ups and downs.

Messi's decision to play the entire match was somewhat surprising. He could have opted for rest and preservation after recovering from an injury in September. Just days before, he had showcased his brilliance by scoring twice in Argentina's 2-0 win over Peru in a 2026 World Cup qualifying match. This raised the question: Why did Messi insist on finishing Inter Miami's season when it no longer mattered?

Playing on turf instead of natural grass was a notable change for Messi in MLS. It was another opportunity to adapt and showcase his adaptability as a player. Inter Miami's final road match of the season also served as a chance for the team to assess its lineup for the future, especially with an extended offseason on the horizon. The team has a November trip to China for two friendlies and the potential for roster rebuilding.

Messi's commitment to his club and country is undeniable. After the China friendlies, he was set to rejoin the Argentine national team for matches against Uruguay and Brazil in mid-November. Despite the rigorous schedule and various commitments, Messi continued to display his unwavering dedication to both his new team and his homeland.

His tenure with Inter Miami had its moments of brilliance. In just 14 appearances, Messi managed to score 11 goals and provide five assists, showcasing his immense talent on the field. Inter Miami, co-owned by David Beckham and the Mas brothers, certainly reaped the rewards of having one of the greatest players in the world on their squad. Messi's Inter Miami jerseys became the best-selling in the MLS, and even Apple TV benefited from broadcasting MLS games, thanks to the Messi effect.

Looking back on the season, it's evident that Inter Miami experienced a rollercoaster ride. They secured victory in the Leagues Cup tournament in August, a significant achievement that brought pride and joy to the club and its fans. However, their MLS postseason hopes fell by the wayside, and the club concluded its season with a disappointing winless streak in its last seven games.

Despite the quieter ending to Messi's first season in MLS, it's safe to say that it was a resounding success. The impact he had on the league, the club, and the fans was undeniable. His presence elevated the status of MLS and attracted attention from soccer enthusiasts worldwide.

As the curtain falls on Messi's debut season in MLS, one can't help but wonder what the future holds. Will he continue to grace American soccer pitches with his brilliance, or will he seek new challenges elsewhere? Regardless of what lies ahead, the Messi era in MLS will be remembered as a significant chapter in the league's history.

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Lionel Messi's Debut MLS Season: Highs and Lows


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