MLS: Lionel Messi, Inter Miami host Nashville SC in search of win streak

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Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will try to win back-to-back league matches for the first time this season when they host a Nashville SC side that has struggled early.

Armed with Messi and a supporting cast of his former FC Barcelona teammates including Luis Suarez, Miami (4-2-3, 15 points) is still the oddsmakers’ solid favorite to win the 2024 MLS Cup.

But a combination of injuries and schedule congestion have contributed to a relatively slow start. A leg issue has limited Messi to five appearances, during which he’s scored five goals and assisted on five more. Suarez leads the team with six goals.

And several important role players from last season have been limited by injuries, including attacker Benjamin Cremaschi, who debuted as a substitute in last weekend’s 3-2 victory at Sporting Kansas City.

“It was difficult to watch from the bench,” said Cremaschi, who had a pair of goals and four assists in 2023. “Obviously, I wanted to be there, I wanted to enjoy it because I enjoy playing. But it happens, you know?

“And I feel like it’s the sport, and just try to prepare mentally and physically for when I came back on the field.”

Miami’s elimination from CONCACAF Champions Cup play earlier this month means the Herons can focus solely on MLS through the remainder of the spring, until Messi and potentially others get called into international duty for summer tournaments in June and July.

Even when Messi has been available, Nashville (1-2-4, seven points) has fared fairly well against the Herons, drawing three out of the four total matches against him.

The exception was Miami’s 3-1 home victory in the second leg of these teams’ Champions Cup series March 13.

But the Coyotes have struggled in 2024 and used their idle weekend last week to sort out why they are struggling to create chances. Hany Mukhtar, the 2022 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner, has only one goal this season.

“Of course, we know about their qualities (and) Messi-Suarez up front,” Mukhtar said. “But we have to concentrate now on us.

“We have to now focus on our shape, what we are after. And just try to do our best and make sure we start getting points.”

–Field Level Media

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