Messi and Miami face Florida MLS derby test

football29 February 2024 21:58| © AFP
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Lionel Messi © Getty Images

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami face an early season derby test when they host Florida rivals Orlando City in Major League Soccer on Saturday.

Messi's stoppage time equaliser in Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy ensured that Miami remain unbeaten after opening their campaign with a 2-0 win at home to Real Salt Lake.

Despite the results, Miami failed to impress with their veteran-laden squad struggling for large stretches of the game in LA.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez looks well short of match fitness while Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, has also been less than his best.

"We started well, with the result we wanted. On Sunday we wanted to win, but the tie was just. It was not our best game," Busquets said.

"At the start of a season, it's always difficult. We still have to get adjusted, await injured players to recuperate, hopefully we can play well this Saturday at home in the Clasico."

Busquets said that Suarez, the 37-year-old Uruguayan and former Barcelona and Liverpool striker, needs to be given some time to get up to speed after joining the club from Brazilian team Gremio, for whom he scored 17 goals last season.

"It's a new league. We all need a period of adaptation," the Spaniard said. "Not just him, but all of us as a team. We are changing, fixing things, some things left to improve."

Orlando represent the toughest opponent of the campaign so far for Gerardo 'Tata' Martino's men and not just because they will be fired up for a local derby.


Orlando finished second in the Eastern Conference last season and while they went out to eventual MLS Cup winners Columbus in the conference semifinals, they are among the favourites for the title this season.

Colombian coach Oscar Pareja has added some experience and quality to his team in the off-season, an indication that he is going for a 'win now' approach to the campaign.

Luis Muriel, a 32-year-old Colombian winger, has joined the Lions from Serie A club Atalanta, ending his 14-year spell in European football.

Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, a standout with Seattle Sounders, has also joined Orlando along with Slovenian defender David Brekalo.

Miami beat Orlando when the two teams met in the Leagues Cup in August, shortly after Messi joined the club along with Busquets and Spanish fullback Jordi Alba.

Pareja attacked the referees in that game for not handing a second yellow card to Messi, describing the game, amid peak 'Messi mania' as a "circus".

Another in-state derby on Saturday sees the improved Galaxy head to northern California to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Galaxy, bolstered by the offseason addition of Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil and Brazilian wide-man Gabriel Pec, and with Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig and Serbian striker Dejan Joveljic, look a much more threatening opponent than in their disappointing 2023 campaign, where they failed to make the playoffs.

Defending champions Columbus Crew visit Minnesota United, who announced on Monday that they had appointed Eric Ramsay as their new coach.

The 32-year-old Welshman was part of Erik ten Hag's staff at Manchester United and will look to improve on Minnesota's 11th place finish in the West under Adrian Heath last term.