Two teams on their way to the playoffs will face each other as Sporting Kansas City face ultra-trampled Inter Miami on Saturday in the clubs’ first-ever game.
Lionel Messi will not play for Miami while serving internationally with Argentina.
Kansas City (8-11-8, 32 points) is two points down the playoff line in the Western Conference and could move into a playoff spot with a win and some help.
It is an impressive turnaround for a club whose season started with a 10-game winning streak (0-7-3). They got their first win on May 7 and have since lost just four games in 17, winning 8-4-5 in that stretch.
“What I think we always have is we have a very confident but humble group,” said SKC coach Peter Vermes. “They have confidence in what they are doing, but there is also humility within the group, and I think we have that. But I think they know the recipe you need to get points at this time of year.”
Striker Alan Pulido scored both goals in Sporting’s final game, a 2–1 win against St. Louis City. That brought Pulido’s season tally to 12, tied for fourth in the league. It was his fourth brace in a streak of ten MLS games, making him the first player in team history to achieve such a feat.
Inter Miami (7-14-4, 25 points) enter the game with a tough hill to climb to make the playoffs. They are fourteenth in the Eastern Conference and eight points behind D.C. United in ninth place, with four other teams in between.
Miami has at least two games in hand against all but one of the other clubs ahead of them, one of which is Saturday.
“Now more than ever we can’t slow down, we have to keep fighting as long as we’re mathematically alive,” coach Tata Martino told the Miami Herald. “The most important thing is that we compete well and keep taking points.”
They will have to do without the spark of Messi, one of eight Miami players absent while representing their national team. Top scorer Josef Martinez also belongs to that group.
Miami are 2-0-1 in MLS fixtures since Messi’s debut and have an 11-game unbeaten streak in all competitions after opening the season as one of the league’s worst teams.
Miami has scored 30 goals in all competitions with Messi, two more than in the previous 26 games before his arrival.
“It will be a difficult game because there are so many players missing from the national team, including Leo, who is always a difference maker for us, not only with his goals and assists, but also with his way of playing,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets. “We need to step it up, prepare well and hope to continue in the same way we played to achieve our goal.”
— Field level media