Messi may play as Inter Miami faces first real ‘must-win’ match Saturday against Cincinnati at DRV PNK Stadium

Herons fans shouldn’t give up hope — never say never — but definitely should face reality: the playoffs are slipping away.

FC Cincinnati forward Dominique Badji holds the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS award for the team with the best regular-season record.
FC Cincinnati forward Dominique Badji holds the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS award for the team with the best regular-season record. / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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Part of me wants Messi to stay off the pitch, to not play for club or country, until he's 100 percent healthy and ready to treat us to the magic we glimpsed in July and August. If he does play against Cincinnati this weekend, I hope he's magnificent and we take three points from a strong and motivated Orange & Blue crew (Inter Miami came from behind to beat Cincinnati in penalty kicks on their own field in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals).

If Miami does win, Charlotte FC would immediately become Heron Enemy No. 2, right behind the Purple of intrastate rival Orlando City. Charlotte, like Miami, is trying to scratch its way into the final playoff spot and, thanks to one of their matches being postponed because of the Leagues Cup, the teams are in the unusual situation of playing each other home and away twice in four days in what I can only hope will be matches with playoff implications.