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Could Argentina’s Copa America Success Derail Inter Miami’s MLS Cup Push?

Major tournament football (soccer) is tough. Although Argentina breezed through to the semi-finals of Copa America, they faced obstacles along the way – not least the fitness battles of Lionel Messi. The need to rest the 37-year-old, allied to an injury that he picked up along the way, has hampered the plans of Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni. If he thought he had problems, consider those of Inter Miami – the MLS side Messi plays for who were thumped 1-6 by FC Cincinnati in July.

Lionel Messi
Photo; Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports.

Miami Beached

The football betting odds for Major League Soccer still make Inter Miami favorites to lift the season-ending MLS Cup – partly because, you would expect, the Messi factor.

But the football tips columns will be acutely aware that, as well as the games Messi has missed while competing at Copa America, there will likely be a period of rest that follows the tournament – damaging Inter’s hopes of a maiden MLS Cup title.

All isn’t quite as it seems in the Miami camp either. As of early July, they were the highest-scoring team in the MLS, however the Expected Goals data had them ranked as just the eleventh most efficient attacking side in the competition.

That suggests they have over-performed in front of goal, which is due largely to the finishing skills of Messi and Luis Suarez. However, it’s likely that the pair of 37-year-olds will experience a downturn at some point during the campaign, at which time Miami will likely regress accordingly.

The other concern for Inter supporters is that they had, at the time of writing, conceded 37 goals in just 23 games. That’s an average of 1.6 per game, which you probably don’t need us to tell you is not the kind of foundation upon which trophies are won.

Inter Miami’s chiefs have spent large sums of money putting together their own ‘Galacticos’ style roster, featuring Messi, Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba. And while that might be a commercial draw, on the pitch the team is struggling to live up to expectations as the MLS Cup favorite.

Three is the Magic Number

Before Messi came along, it was another mercurial left-footed genius who was lauded as one of the very best in the MLS.

Carlos Vela has now departed Los Angeles FC, but he more than played his part in establishing the franchise as one of the most successful in the competition – they’ve reached the last two MLS Cup finals, winning one (2022) and losing the other (2023).

The Mexican has been replaced as LAFC’s marquee signing by Hugo Lloris, who has helped his new employer to compile the MLS’ best Expected Goals against column – suggesting that, based upon the chances yielded, they are the best defensive side in the competition.

At the other end of the pitch, things are also going well. LAFC rank second in Expected Goals, revealing how comfortable they are in creating chances, while in Denis Bouanga – who has an incredible 22-goal involvements in just 21 appearances – they have a player in the hunt for the MLS MVP award.

So if you were to hang your hat on the most likely MLS Cup champion this season, it might not be Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami – Los Angeles FC look far more at ease with the moniker.  

The published material expresses the position of the author, which may not coincide with the opinion of the editor.

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