Inter Miami rested Lionel Messi and suffered their first defeat since the Argentine star joined the club, with a 5-2 hammering at Atlanta United on Saturday.
Messi did not made the trip to Atlanta, after a busy run of games since making his Inter Miami debut in late July.
With no Messi last week, Miami defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-2 but this time it was a very different story for Martino’s team.
Miami went ahead in the 25th minute with a superbly taken goal from in-form Ecuadorean striker, Leonardo Campana.
Dixon Arroyo’s shot flew out off the cross-bar and Campana chested the ball down, lost Miles Robinson with a clever touch and then volleyed home with his left foot.
But the response from Atlanta United, sixth in the Eastern Conference, was emphatic with three goals in the space of eight minutes.
A glancing header from French midfielder, Tristan Muyamba, which struck the inside of the post, was ruled to have crossed the line by the assistant referee.
Five minutes later, Atlanta United had the lead when Brazilian winger, Xande Silva, dribbled to the byline and his pull-back was turned into his own net by Miami defender, Kamal Miller.
Miami’s defence, without former Spain international left-back, Jordi Alba, were reeling and the rampant Atlanta attack took full advantage, Brooks Lennon adding the third in the 44th minute with a sweetly struck shot after being set up by Caleb Wiley.
The blitz of goals left Miami with plenty to ponder at the interval and they came out strongly, pulling a goal back in the 54th minute.
Tomas Aviles’ shot struck the arm of Atlanta defender, Luis Abram, and referee Jair Marrufo pointed to the spot with Campana’s composed shot sending Brad Guzan the wrong way.
Speaking after the game, Miami coach, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, said Messi and Alba had been suffering from “muscle fatigue”, adding that it would have been “very reckless to bring him to play this game”.
Martino said: “We risked worse consequences if they came to play this game. It has nothing to do with the (artificial) surface.
“Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions because these are also decisive matches but there is a final on the 27th.”
Messi sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday but watched his team-mates from the bench.
The 36-year-old player was substituted in the final minutes of the 1-0 win over Ecuador on September 7, after scoring the winner, but there have been no reports of an injury.
Inter Miami remain next to bottom of the Eastern Conference, six points behind D.C United who occupy ninth place, the last playoff spot.
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