Three Up, Three Down: Who shined, who didn’t as Cincinnati ends Inter Miami’s playoff hopes

Five teams remain alive in the quest for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots, but Inter Miami is not among them. A 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati paired with wins by Charlotte, Montreal and New York Red Bulls eliminated the Herons.
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi signs a young fan’s jersey after he was caught running onto the pitch Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium.
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi signs a young fan’s jersey after he was caught running onto the pitch Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
5 of 5

Three Down

Lionel Messi, C

[KEN] Tata Martino said after the match that Messi couldn’t find his rhythm. That’s not surprising, considering he’d played just 37 minutes the past month or so. When Messi entered in the 55th minute, I think he was under too much pressure to be “Lionel Messi, Greatest Of All Time” rather than Messi the consummate teammate who makes everyone around him better. Maybe starting the match or the second half would have helped him find that magical flow that changes games; regardless, he was notably ineffective.

[MATT] Yeah, I'm not sure what kind of rhythm we were looking for... but it seemed Messi's rhythm was more Jamaican reggae than the usual alternative rock (you'll just have to think about it to get the full picture). If I miss five days of work, I'm going to need a little time to get reacclimated before I'm at full strength. Why would it be any different for Messi? Then again, like Ken, I wonder why we waited 10 minutes into the second half to bring him on.

Serhiy Kryvtsov, C

[KEN] The, um, less-than-fleet Ukrainian has been dependable if unspectacular for Inter Miami, but I feel like he disappeared at times against Cincinnati, letting Avilés and Kamal Miller do much of the work. To be fair, he wasn’t the only Heron looking a lead-footed by the end of this match, the seventh since September 16.

[MATT] You know, I've been critical of Inter Miami's defense... and I feel for good reason. Early in the season, they were dreadful (Kryvtsov included). Then, when fortunes seemed to turn for the Herons, they were not-quite-so-dreadful, but not nearly good enough. I don't see fortunes getting any better until we see a revamping of the backline (again, Kryvtsov included).

Major League Soccer, F

[KEN] Inter Miami didn’t play well enough to be a legitimate postseason contender — an 11-match winless streak dug a hole from which even Messi couldn’t lift the Herons — but Major League Soccer built challenges into the season that could be avoided. Match congestion affected La Rosa Negra as much, maybe more, than any squad. Runs to the Leagues Cup and Open Cup finals gives Inter Miami 46 competitive matches (yes, we still have to play Charlotte home and away Oct. 18 and Oct. 22, respectively. Who knows what the number might have been if Inter Miami did make the playoffs?

[MATT] I agree that Inter Miami was its own worst enemy, especially in the front half of the season. But it's called an international break for a reason. Every other league in the world recognizes the importance of playing for flag and country as well as for club and fan... except MLS. In the end, it's the Herons' fault they didn't make the playoffs, not MLS, but you aren't going to attract top talent unless you find ways to give them some kind of a break in the season. Let's get with the times, MLS.