Inter Miami was inches away from a victory without Lionel Messi on Sunday.
David Ruiz’s right-footed shot in the 97th minute hit the top of the crossbar and bounced downward and away from the net in what could have been a goal that likely would have given Inter Miami the win and some much-needed help in the MLS playoff race.
Instead, Inter Miami’s postseason hopes remain fluid and uncertain – just like Messi’s playing status.
A header by Inter Miami’s Tomás Avilés tied the match three minutes into stoppage time, New York City FC’s Santiago Rodriguez scored in the 77th minute, and Inter Miami finished with a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at DRV PNK Stadium.
Messi sat pensively, wearing a pink shirt and a gold watch, behind the Inter Miami bench while missing his third straight game for the club, and fourth overall in September.
A lingering injury, the details murky and undisclosed, has kept Messi out of action and he’s considered day to day. Inter Miami’s next match is Wednesday night against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field.
Inter Miami coach Tata Martino tried to dismiss a social media report stating Messi might have a hamstring tear, and that his MLS season could be over.
Martino, via translator, said time will tell “if what I say is right, or what the report says is right.”
“He feels better and better,” Martino said of Messi.
Inter Miami has begun to receive criticism for Messi’s layoff, understandably so with fans paying for expensive game tickets, travel arrangements, and merchandise during this recent stretch.