(Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Inter Miami travel to Atlanta for their second league meeting of the season against the United on Saturday.
Miami defeated Atlanta 2-1 on May 6 in MLS action and also 4-0 in Leagues Cup group stage play in July.
Miami (8-14-4, 28 points) is coming off a 3-2 win against Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 9 and is looking to extend its unbeaten streak to 13 games across all competitions. Miami, which sits 14 points back of Atlanta (11-8-9, 42 points) is 3-9-1 on the road this season in the MLS.
Saturday's meeting represents a homecoming for Miami coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino, who coached Atlanta from 2016-18 and led the club to an MLS Cup title in 2018.
"No matter what happens on Saturday, Atlanta will want to continue to win," Martino told The Athletic. "All of our games are important for our playoff qualification, but that won't diminish the love that I have for the club, for the city and for those two wonderful years. I've noticed that this Atlanta team is evolving. The new players are adapting well."
Lionel Messi has been involved in 16 Miami goals in 11 games across all competitions since debuting with the club on July 21. Messi has 11 goals and five assists in that span.
But he won't be playing in the match, multiple media outlets reported. Coming off of duty with Argentina's national team, Messi did not make the trip to Atlanta.
And that's sure to disappoint the fans who had hoped to get their first look at Messi in MLS action. In anticipation of what they thought would be Messi's arrival in Atlanta, the Five Stripes expected more than 70,000 to enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the match.
"It's always two sides, and one is where it can turn into pressure and being shy and panicked," Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda said of the attendance. "I don't think that's the case for us. When this group has been against good teams this year at home, we have been very efficient. It works in our favor because we're at home, 70,000 fans cheering for us, that motivates us enormously, and we take that energy into the game."
Atlanta has lost two of its last three MLS home matches, including a 2-1 defeat to Cincinnati on Aug. 30. Atlanta has lost consecutive home games only three times in club history. The United are sixth in the Eastern Conference and have an 8-3-3 record at home this season.
--Field Level Media