Tata Martino doubles down on decision to rest Lionel Messi for Inter Miami's MLS clash against Vancouver Whitecaps

Inter Miami CF v CF Montreal
Lionel Messi in action for Inter Miami.

Inter Miami manager Tata Martino has backed his decision to rest Lionel Messi for his side's MLS fixture against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The two teams clashed at the BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday, May 25, with the Herons winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Robert Taylor (38') and Leonardo Campano (54').

Miami notably made the decision to not include Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets in the squad that traveled to Canada, opting to rest them instead. This led to a statement from Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster, who said (as quoted by the club's official website):

"While we haven't received an official update on the availability of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, and Sergio Busquets for this weekend, we understand they will not make this trip. Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent, and it was important for us to communicate to our fans as soon as possible.
"We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans."

Amid backlash from the fans, Martino has now clarified that it was necessary to rest his stars given Inter Miami's busy schedule. The former Barcelona boss said after the 2-1 win over the Whitecaps (via intermiami.news):

“It must be stressed that he [Lionel Messi] has played a lot of minutes this season, so we had to find a moment to give him a break and to rest him for a match. In this specific case, the trip to Vancouver made the most sense.
“We understand people’s frustrations, especially because of the desire these fans have to see these players. But as coaches, we have to make these decisions that are uncomfortable and that will frustrate people, but ultimately we have to look after our players and the team.”

Miami notably has a midweek game just days after their win over Vancouver and will take on Atlanta United at home on May 29. This will be followed by another home encounter against St. Louis on June 2 before a two-week break.

The club will notably be without Messi for the final weeks of June and most of July as he will be competing in the Copa America with Argentina.

Brief look at Lionel Messi's season for Inter Miami so far

Lionel Messi has enjoyed a fantastic start to the ongoing season, though he has also struggled with injuries.

La Pulga has notched up 12 goals and 11 assists in just 13 matches across competitions for Inter Miami. However, he has already missed six games due to two different leg injuries.

While Miami fell in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions Cup, Messi's performances have helped them sit atop the MLS' Eastern Conference. The Herons have racked up 34 points from 16 matches, one clear of Cincinnati who have a game in hand.

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