Despite Lionel Messi's injury concerns, Edison Azcona's Inter Miami beat Toronto FC 4-0 on Wednesday with two goals from Robert Taylor to boost their playoff hopes.
Inter Beats Toronto Without Messi on the Field
Messi returned to the starting lineup after sitting out Saturday's 5-2 loss to Atlanta due to muscle fatigue, but had to leave the field in the 38th minute, looking uncomfortable.
His former Barcelona teammate, Spain's Jordi Alba, who also missed the trip to Atlanta, had limped out of the game three minutes earlier.
Gerardo Martino commented that both players would be followed up to determine the true cause of the early departure.
Despite the blow of losing their star and one of their most influential players, Miami easily overcame the last team in the Eastern Conference.
Facundo Farias opened the scoring on the brink of halftime with a powerful volley after Toronto goalkeeper Tomas Romero weakly denied Noah Allen's cross.
Substitute Robert Taylor increased the lead to 2-0 in the 54th minute with an outstanding solo goal, dribbling across the box from the left before firing an angled shot back into the bottom corner.
Taylor then turned assistant, releasing another substitute, Benjamin Cremaschi, who fired between Romero's legs to make the score 3-0.
Finnish international Taylor completed his stunning performance with the fourth goal, taking a floated pass over the top of the Farias defense and firing home from close range.
The performance of Taylor, Cremaschi and other subs will give Miami confidence that it can stay in playoff contention, even if Messi and Alba need more time to recover.
Raining goals 🏠⚽️ pic.twitter.com/gKPsuRCRpN
- Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) September 21, 2023
Azcona to take advantage of Messi and Alba's departure
Inter Miami coach Martino said Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba will not play in Sunday's away match against Orlando City.
Both players will be evaluated in hopes of playing in Wednesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo FC.
Martino attributed fatigue as the reason why both players will not be able to appear in Miami's next game this Sunday.
Messi's most explosive chance was a right-footed shot that missed Facundo Farias' volleyed pass, but the shot went too high.
A goal would have driven Inter Miami fans crazy as Messi charged towards the right side of the goal to fire in Farias' volley.
Earlier, Messi found some space and shot with his left foot towards goal, but his shot was caught by the Toronto FC goalkeeper in the 18th minute.
In another sequence, Messi was caught in the middle of Toronto players, and his shot hit one of them to end the threat.
Miami, which travels to Orlando on Sunday, moves up to 13th in the Eastern Conference and is just five points behind D.C. United.
DC United is in ninth place, the last playoff position. Miami has two games remaining. D.C. United drew 1-1 at home against Atlanta, while other results were also favorable for Miami.
For Azcona, the absence of more players could mean returning to the bench, as he did against Atlanta United. The Dominican player is still waiting to play a greater role with the pink and black team.