Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Alba calls for Miami battle as MLS star Messi heads to Copa America defence

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Jun 2024

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Lionel Messi heads off to Copa America with Argentina after starring once again in MLS, with Jordi Alba calling on Inter Miami to battle in the forward’s absence.

Former Barcelona forward Messi made MLS history on Sunday, reaching 25 goal contributions in just 12 appearances this term to shatter the previous fastest record held by Carlos Vela (16 in 2019).

Messi was on target in the 3-3 draw with St. Louis City, while Alba – who assisted Miami’s first two goals – salvaged a point at Chase Stadium with a late leveller in a thrilling contest.

Yet Gerardo Martino will not have Messi to call upon for the foreseeable future, as the legendary attacker prepares for Argentina’s Copa title defence.

“Knowing the player that he is for us, it’s hard, but the team will continue to compete as much as possible, and that will be noticed,” Alba said of Messi’s absence.

“It’s an important absence for us, but we hope he does well in Copa America, we hope he has a great tournament and joins us again when it’s time.

“If that’s after the final, well – but in the meantime, the team will continue to fight and play.”

The 2024 Copa runs from June 20 to July 14, with Inter also potentially losing players to the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris at the end of next month.

Martino remains aware of the availability issues that could follow for the Eastern Conference leaders, though Messi leaves with Miami’s well wishes.

“In today’s game, Leo was practically responsible next to Jordi for the participation of the attack,” the Miami head coach said.

“He was involved creating chances, he insisted throughout the game. He finished the game well – and now will do what has corresponded to him his whole life, which is play for Argentina.”

Argentina face Ecuador and Guatemala in warm-up fixtures before opening their Copa defence against Canada on June 21.

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