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Lionel Messi will once again be sidelined for Inter Miami’s game against NYFC due to a muscle injury.

Messi was not active for Wednesday’s US Open Cup final against Houston because of the leg issue, marking his fourth absence in a span of his last five games combined for club and country. 

And it’s unclear if Messi will continue to be sidelined when Inter Miami resumes its push to make Major League Soccer‘s playoffs next week.

His presence has helped Miami (9-15-5, 32 points) get within striking distance of the final playoff spot. Miami has earned 10 of those points in Messi’s four league matches by going 3-0-1 with him in the lineup. 

Messi didn’t play Wednesday, and as a result, Houston Dynamo took full advantage to win a trophy on his home field.

The first half was not an easy watch for Messi – his team were losing 2-0 at the halftime break

Lionel Messi takes the field during an Inter Miami CF Training Session on Friday in Florida

Inter Miami’s official lineup for the game did not feature Messi in the squad once again

In Messi’s absence, Dynamo’s Griffin Dorsey and Amine Bassi scored first-half goals and Houston – with NBA star James Harden, part of the team’s ownership group, looking on from the stands – topped Inter Miami 2-1 to win the US Open Cup.

Josef Martinez scored in second-half stoppage time for Inter Miami, but it wasn’t enough as Messi could only look on from the team bench area.

Inter Miami coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said Wednesday night that ‘it wasn’t prudent’ to consider playing Messi against Houston, though he indicated the team expects him to play on Saturday when MLS contests resume for the club. Messi will continue to be evaluated until then.

The seven-time Ballon d´Or winner was subbed out of a match against Toronto on September 20 in the first half because of a leg issue, and did not play in the team’s 1-1 draw at Orlando on Sunday. That was the third match he missed in its entirety – two for club, one for country – in the last two weeks, and missing a final on Wednesday suggests the problem could be worse than the team has suggested.

Suddenly ascending, NYCFC hope they can do enough to get the crucial three points that come with a victory Saturday night. 

Messi took a seat next to his wife, Antonela Roccuzzo, to watch Miami play in the final

NYCFC (8-10-13, 37 points) are attempting to get three straight wins for the first time this year and have scored eight times during a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) that has elevated them into ninth place in the Eastern Conference. NYCFC begin the week with the same point total as CF Montreal, but with three fewer wins.

‘We’re going to have to be as good as we can be defensively,’ NYCFC coach Nick Cushing said. ‘We’ve been good over the last few weeks so we’ll have to retain that.’

With three matches remaining, NYCFC are attempting to fend off D.C. United, whom they visit next week and lead by one standings point. NYCFC are also three ahead of the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire.

NYCFC kept the streak intact with a 3-0 home win over Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon. Andres Perea scored in the second minute while Andres Jasson and Julian Fernandez also tallied as NYCFC scored three goals for the third time this year.

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