Messi’s MLS season ends with defeat to Charlotte.
Lionel Messi returned to the starting lineup but couldn’t prevent his first MLS season from ending in defeat as Charlotte FC beat Inter Miami 1-0 in front of a crowd of 66,101 at Bank of America Stadium.
Messi was captain and played the full 90 minutes-plus on artificial turf in the meaningless game on Saturday for Miami, which failed to make the playoffs. The game had massive implications, though, for Charlotte. With a win and results elsewhere, the second-year team qualified for the MLS playoffs for the first time.
Kerwin Vargas scored the game’s only goal in the 13th minute, but Miami came close on numerous occasions to finding an equalizer that would have ended Charlotte’s postseason hopes.
Messi had a free kick saved onto the post in the 62nd minute and also had a goal ruled out for offside at the start of the second half. Then in a thrilling finale, Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina made multiple standout saves to keep Miami out.
Charlotte finished ninth in the Eastern Conference to claim the final playoff spot and will face a wild-card match against the New York Red Bulls.
Miami, which was 15th and last in the Eastern Conference when Messi and fellow ex-Barcelona stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba arrived in July, finished 14th with 34 points from 34 games. The team was winless in his final six league matches (three losses, three draws) and had four wins, four losses and four draws in the league since Messi joined the team.