After Inter Miami loses US Open Cup, coach insists Messi will play again this season

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Inter Miami’s first championship a month ago was everything the MLS club envisioned. Lionel Messi leading the way and being hoisted by teammates, with hugs all around for co-owners David Beckham, Jorge and Jose Mas.

Inter Miami’s bid for a second title on Wednesday night was a far cry from the first.

They barely stood a chance without Messi and fellow former Barcelona star Jordi Alba, who were both watching from the Inter Miami bench with their wives beside them due to unspecified injuries, until a goal in the 91st minute of stoppage time sparked a crowd hoping to see Messi shine.

Griffin Dorsey scored in the 24th minute, while Amine Bassi scored a penalty kick in the 32nd minute and the Houston Dynamo won the U.S. Open Cup final against Inter Miami 2-1 at DRV PNK Stadium on Wednesday night.

“They were missing their best player. But I’m not crying for them,” Houston Dynamo coach Ben Olsen said after his second Open title with his second team.

“It’s still a really good team we beat.”

Josef Martinez scored for Inter Miami in the first minute of stoppage time, with six extra minutes in all added to the match. But two more shots on goal by Leo Campana and Facundo Farias were not close.

The final three minutes were the most entertaining. But the damage had already been done. Messi waved to fans in the crowd after watching his side come up short as the match went final. And Inter Miami’s players walked off their pitch as Houston Dynamo players and coaches celebrated their Open championship on it.

Inter Miami coach insists Messi will play again this season

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said, via translator, after Wednesday's loss that Messi will “absolutely play before the season is over."

Take it with a grain of salt – especially if you’re trying to buy a ticket to watch Messi play in the final five Inter Miami matches this season.

A day earlier, Martino said Messi’s chance to play in the Open Cup final was only present because it was a final. If it was just another match, Messi wouldn’t play.

Inter Miami’s next match is Saturday against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium.

“We will go match by match and see when the medical department will give us the OK for him to play without much risk,” Martino said of Messi.

How did we learn Messi would miss US Open Cup final?

Martino was forward, saying Alba would likely miss the match. But the intrigue of Messi’s availability lingered until an hour before the match when he did not arrive with his teammates on the team bus and was not listed on the game day lineup.

Martino spoke for weeks about Inter Miami’s focus on the Open final, with hopes enough rest for Messi and Alba could lead to their availability and Inter Miami’s ability to hoist another trophy in the two short months of the Messi era.

Instead, Inter Miami watched Houston Dynamo celebrate the Open championship on their home pitch.

What’s going on with Messi?

The intrigue that follows Messi before every Inter Miami game will continue with five MLS matches remaining this season.

Messi is dealing with an old, nagging injury that remains undisclosed, but won’t require surgery.

Messi missed his fourth match in the month of September – he missed three Inter Miami matches and a 2026 World Cup qualifying match with Argentina.

How did Inter Miami do without Messi?

Without Messi, Inter Miami was sluggish in the first half as Houston Dynamo took a 2-0 lead within a nine-minute span.

“I thought it was a really exhausted team,” Martino said. “We’re going to start suffering the consequences of so many games we’ve played.”

Despite picking up the pace and their efforts in the second half, Inter Miami didn't find the spark Messi provided them that has captivated soccer fans around the world for much of the last two months until the final minutes. By then, there wasn't enough time left to win their second title.

In all, Inter Miami has played 16 matches since Messi’s first match on July 21 – 68 days ago.

And the fatigue has finally caught up to all of Inter Miami’s players, and even its coach – not just Messi.

"We play all the matches, and in the middle there’s a final,” Martino said. “Again, it seems to me this could have happened. It was logical for it to happen.”

Inter Miami vs. Houston Dynamo highlights

Houston defeated Miami to win the U.S. Open Cup

Final: Houston Dynamo 2, Inter Miami 1

The final three minutes were more exciting than the entire match.

Inter Miami had several chances, but ultimately fell short.

Facundo Farias missed wide left and Leo Campana missed a header in the final three minutes of the match after Josef Martinez’s goal in stoppage time made it 2-1.

Ultimately, Inter Miami’s bid for a second title came up short.

And Leo Messi waved to fans in the crowd after watching his side come up short without him and Jordi Alba in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Josef Martinez goal: Houston Dynamo 2, Inter Miami 1

It’s likely too little, too late. But there’s still time.

Josef Martinez scored in the 91st minute of the match to narrow Houston Dynamo’s lead to 2-1 during extra time.

It was the strike and score Inter Miami needed all match long, sending the Inter Miami fans inside DRV PNK Stadium into a late frenzy.

There’s six minutes of stoppage time, five remaining.

VAR leads to no goal: Houston Dynamo 2, Inter Miami 0

Nelson Quiñónes waited patiently on the left side, and delivered the pass from Amine Bassi straight past Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar in the 73rd minute

But wait a minute: A review from VAR showed Quiñónes was offsides.

It could’ve been a 3-0 lead and a cakewalk in the final minutes of the U.S. Open Cup final, but Inter Miami still has a chance in this 2-0 match despite 15 minutes or so remaining.

Can Inter Miami take advantage?

Inter Miami picks it up in first 25 minutes of second half, down 2-0 still

Well, Inter Miami has picked up the pace and the effort in the second half.

Josef Martinez entered the match and had three shots on goal.

Benjamin Cremaschi also had another right boot sent toward the net.

Leo Campana tried a header as well.

But Inter Miami’s attempts were not successful in the first 25 minutes of the second half.

Halftime: Houston Dynamo 2, Inter Miami 0

Inter Miami is down 2-0 at halftime without Leo Messi in the U.S. Open Cup final, and it’s even more lopsided than the score looks.

Houston Dynamo is up to 18 shots in the first half of this match, while Inter Miami just has 1.

In fact, Inter Miami’s shot by Benjamin Cremaschi that sailed over the crossbar came in the 42nd minute – well after Houston took its 2-0 lead with two goals in a 9-minute span.

Griffin Dorsey scored in the 24th minute, while Amine Bassi scored a penalty kick in the 32nd minute to take the advantage.

Messi and Jordi Alba, both sidelined due to unspecified injuries, are not on Inter Miami’s roster. They are both watching from the bench.

Amine Bassi goal: Houston Dynamo 2, Inter Miami 0

Two goals in a 10-minute span for the Houston Dynamo.

Inter Miami captain DeAndre Yedlin was given a yellow card after colliding into Nelson Quiñónes to set up a penalty kick.

And Amine Bassi delivered with a kick straight down the middle that went past Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar in the 32nd minute.

Houston Dynamo minority owner James Harden, the former Houston Rockets star, celebrated in the stands after the score and 2-0 lead.

Griffin Dorsey goal: Houston Dynamo 1, Inter Miami 0

Houston Dynamo has opened the scoring in this match.

Griffin Dorsey scored with a strike from his right boot in the 24th minute to help his side take an early 1-0 lead on Inter Miami in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Dorsey’s shot soared past Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar into the back of the net.

Houston had several shots on goal to start the match, but Dorsey’s goal made its way through.

Now, Inter Miami must play from behind.

Messi arrives for Inter Miami’s match, won’t play

Well, he’s not playing. But Leo Messi is still in attendance for Inter Miami’s match tonight.

Word of Messi’s arrival came shortly before kickoff, slated for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Messi is not on Inter Miami's lineup for the U.S. Open Cup final, so he won't start, come off the bench or play.

But here's video of his entrance:

Zinedine Zidane checks out Inter Miami, Houston Dynamo final

While one all-time great won’t be on the pitch, another will be in attendance.

Zinedine Zidane, the French midfielder and former Real Madrid manager, is in attendance for the U.S. Open Cup final match between Inter Miami and Houston Dynamo.

Zidane greeted Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham on the pitch about an hour before the match.

Zidane is one of nine players to win the World Cup, the Champions League, and the Ballon d'Or trophy.

Messi not on Inter Miami team bus before US Open Cup final

Lionel Messi’s prospects of playing in Wednesday's match do not look promising.

Messi was not on Inter Miami’s team bus that dropped off 18 players right around 7:30 p.m. ET – an hour before the match.

Jordi Alba, who will not play, was also not on the bus. But it was already determined Alba, who is dealing with an unspecified injury, would not be likely to play.

Maybe, if Messi shows up at any point, he’ll enter the game off the bench.

But as it looks now, Messi might not even be on the bench when Inter Miami takes the pitch in the U.S. Open Cup final.

What time is Inter Miami playing today? How to watch Messi match

The U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 27 will be available to stream on the CBS Sports Golazo Network.

Is Messi playing for Inter Miami?

Messi is considered a game-time decision for Wednesday night’s match, Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said Tuesday.

How much could Messi play in U.S. Open Cup final?

Could Messi start the Open final and leave early? Could Messi come off the bench as a late substitute? Or does he play at all?

The only reason Messi’s availability is in question is because of Inter Miami’s pursuit of another title.

If it was just another match, Messi would not likely play, Martino said Tuesday.

“We’re talking about Leo: We have risk all the time, and we have to lower that risk,” Martino said.

“If it wasn’t a final, we wouldn’t take any risk. But because it is a final, there is a chance we take that risk.”

Messi has hit a bit of a snag with injury in September

Messi is dealing with scar tissue from a previous injury he sustained.

Martino was adamant Messi will not need surgery.

“He doesn’t need surgery or anything like that. It’s just a matter of how much time the player needs to rest in order to play the next game,” Martino said.

How many games has Messi missed?

Messi did not play in Inter Miami’s 1-1 draw against Orlando City last Sunday, which followed his action in the Toronto match.

Messi did not travel with Inter Miami for its 5-2 loss at Atlanta United on Sept. 16 after returning from the Argentina national team.

Messi also missed the second of two games with Argentina, a 3-0 win over Bolivia on Sept. 12, to rest.

Inter Miami’s pursuit of second title

After winning the Leagues Cup final last month, Inter Miami could add a second title to its franchise’s history.

Messi helped deliver Inter Miami’s first title in dynamic fashion, helping the club beat Nashville SC 1-1 (10-9 in penalty kicks) in the Leagues Cup final on Aug. 19.

Messi scored in the 23rd minute, and Inter Miami outdueled Nashville in the penalty stage to win their first title since inception in 2020.

David Beckham hugged his wife, Victoria, and fellow Inter Miami co-owners Jorge and Jose Mas in the stands as their vision for Messi in Miami came to fruition just seven matches into their experiment together.

Where does Inter Miami stand in the MLS playoff race?

After the Open final, Inter Miami will turn its attention back to the MLS playoff race.

With five MLS matches remaining, Inter Miami has 32 points in the Eastern Conference standings.

Inter Miami is ranked 14th out of 15 teams, but is only five points away from the ninth and final playoff spot, where New York City FC sits with 37 points.

What is Inter Miami's remaining 2023 schedule?

The U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 27 will be available to stream on the CBS Sports Golazo Network.

But the rest of Inter Miami’s matches and the rest of MLS are available to watch via the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Keep in mind, should Messi lead Inter Miami to the MLS playoffs, some of those postseason games also could be broadcast on FOX.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Messi's Inter Miami vs. Houston highlights: US Open Cup final score