Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami minutes are piling up, so how should Tata Martino handle him in U.S. Open Cup, MLS?

After winning Leagues Cup and qualifying for Concacaf Champions Cup, Lionel Messi and Inter Miami won’t get much time to rest before another critical game in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, Aug. 23 (which you can watch for free on the CBS Sports Golazo Network). The oldest competition in U.S. soccer, the Open Cup is still a heralded trophy but for Tata Martino, he has an unenviable situation of trying to balance his Inter Miami roster after getting through the Leagues Cup gauntlet. He’s insisted that Messi will continue to play until the player says he needs rest, and this is a huge opportunity for the team to reach their second final.

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While Messi’s Leagues Cup exceeded all expectations with him scoring 10 goals and assisting one more, he has also logged 564 minutes in just under a month. They are playing their third game in only eight days with another one around the corner against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, seeing the Herons travel from Nashville to Cincinnati and then to Harrison. Preparing for Open Cup play, this something that Martino addressed.

“We said that at some point he would have to rest because of the load of minutes played,” Martino said on Monday. “Clearly, Wednesday is not going to be that day. If he does not tell me he wants to rest, he will continue to play.”

Inter Miami have already secured a Champions Cup place but Open Cup isn’t something that they can punt by sitting Messi unless he physically can’t. His influence has been immense with the club winning five matches and drawing two since his arrival while also scoring 22 goals during that timeframe. Messi has scored in each Inter Miami game he’s played in. Each member of the squad has stepped up their game to lift Miami to new heights but with Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba logging most of those minutes, their talented youth players will be needed sooner than later as they pursue more glory.

“How do you sit Lionel Messi in a semifinal? He’s gonna play 120 minutes if that what this game goes to.”@FelipeCar joins Box to Box to talk about Lionel Messi’s heavy workload thus far and makes a prediction. 👀

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) August 22, 2023
Attacking midfielder Facundo Farias made the squad for the first time in the Leagues Cup final against Nashville SC and if Messi doesn’t start a game here at some point, he’s the most likely replacement to drive Miami’s creativity. That first start could come quite soon too as if Messi will start in Open Cup play, it’s possible that he won’t start in his first MLS match versus the Red Bulls.

Farias is a talented creator when healthy scoring eight goals and assisting one last season in all competitions for Colon of Argentina but at only 20, it’s an excellent opportunity for him to grow into a role for club and possibly country under Messi. While this season Miami will go as far as Messi takes them, moving forward that could shift to going as far as Farias can help supplement when Messi needs rest.

Alongside him, Diego Gomez has already been playing minutes in midfield and Tomas Aviles could be next to debut in defense to help give Drake Callender a little less to do. That talented trio are almost as important for making MLS Cup as Messi will be in the long run which is why this is an excellent chance for Martino to begin integrating them.

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The Golazo Network is available via, the CBS Sports app, Paramount+ and Pluto TV. Paramount+ subscribers can get an up-close look at Lionel Messi’s greatness with the Star Cam, which follows his every move and touch on the pitch. For a limited time, get 50% off an annual plan. That’s $2.50/month for the Essential Plan, or $5/month for the Paramount+ with SHOWTIME plan, for 12 months! Try it for free here.

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