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When the MLS schedule is released in December, one day at DC United House Calendar Highlights above all others: March 16 against Inter Miami and the Argentine superstar; Lionel Messi.

Messi was playing in this game for the first time since his move to MLS last summer. Audi field And entertain a full house with his wide range of talents and tricks.

Inter Miami will arrive at Buzzard Point on Saturday afternoon, but Messi may not be there – he is troubled by a strained right hamstring he suffered in an international match on Wednesday.

Assistant coach Javier Morales He told reporters. In South Florida on Friday, the 36-year-old forward was “removed from practice” for the game in Washington and the team is waiting for test results for more information.

Messi’s absence will disappoint local fans who missed out on seeing him play last season. It was just before Miami joined the team on one visit to the district.

When the 2024 schedule was released, United initially offered only season ticket packages and premium options for tickets to the Miami game. After the seats were gone for that match, the asking price on the secondary market stretched into four figures.

This week there were still many, but when Messi’s injury was revealed Prices have dropped significantly.

This wouldn’t be the first time local fans have felt frustrated. In the year He did not play in Argentina’s 2015 friendly against El Salvador at NFL Stadium in Landover due to a calf injury.

Messi has decided to return to the area on June 14 when World Cup champions Argentina face Guatemala in Landover.

Fans aren’t the only ones upset by Messi’s absence this weekend. United players were eager to play the greatest player in football history.

“You want to test yourself against the best,” midfielder Matty Peltola said.

Left-back Pedro Santos says everyone wants to play with Messi, even though he can be a threat. [against] we”

But there’s also the practical matter of winning games, and amid a bright start to the season under new coach Troy LeSene, United (1-0-2) understands that Miami’s losses will be its gains.

“It’s definitely positive for us,” said United centre-back Christopher McVeigh, Messi’s Miami team-mate last season.

“We have more chances to get three points,” Santos said.

Messi strained his right leg in Fort Lauderdale’s 3-1 CONCACAF Champions Cup win over Nashville SC. His first-half goal and assist were broken five minutes later.

Messi has played all 90 minutes in Miami’s first three MLS games – contributing three goals and one assist – and started last week’s series opener against Nashville. But he missed Sunday’s regular-season game against Montreal — a 3-2 home loss — with what team officials described as a shin injury.

Messi is set to join Argentina for friendlies against El Salvador and Costa Rica next week.

United coach Troy Lessene said: “At least there are people in our group who say, ‘Well, we don’t have to worry about someone at that level now.’

United are prepared for a Miami line-up this week that includes Messi – “how they want to get the ball, how he gets into strange positions and is weak defensively,” goalkeeper Alex Bono said.

On Thursday, the team was preparing for Leonardo Campana to take Messi’s place.

Lesene and his players, however, said their primary focus is on themselves and how they can continue to improve after beating New England in their home opener last month and drawing against Portland and Cincinnati – a positive step after missing the playoffs for four straight years.

Lesene’s pressed and active up-time style is starting to take shape and gain popularity.

That’s the style of play that we want to implement in every match, but especially when there is an opponent [like Miami] He has played too many matches in a short period of time and is coming off a short rest,” Lesene said.

Even without Messi Miami (2-1-1) It can cause problems. The lineup includes three of Messi’s former FC Barcelona teammates: Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Also included are Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gomez, US national team goalkeeper Drake Callender and former DC winger Julian Gressel.

“Just because [Messi] “That doesn’t mean this game is going to be a breeze,” Bono said.

Notes: United striker Christian Benteke, who has missed two games with a groin injury, has trained all week and will be in uniform after the late defeat. Fellow forward Ted Coo-DiPietro will likely be sidelined with a thigh injury. …

Peltola (Finland), right back Aaron Herrera (Guatemala), center back Matai Akinboni and forward Christian Fletcher (both US Under-19 team) will not miss their national teams’ away game in St. Louis next Saturday. MLS does not pause the schedule for such international windows.