Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will play in a major semifinal for the second time in eight days when they visit FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup.
Messi and the Herons will be only four days removed from their remarkable run to win the inaugural 2023 Leagues Cup, defeating Nashville SC on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Saturday night's final.
The lone Miami goal in regulation came from Messi, his 10th of the tournament, as he started his sixth consecutive match after making his debut for his new club off the bench in the tournament opener.
Despite a heavy workload for Messi, Herons manager Tata Martino says the Argentine superstar will still be in the starting lineup Wednesday.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, to signify the top player in the world each year, has delivered a dynamic and busy start to his Inter Miami tenure after previously playing for top clubs like FC Barcelona and Paris St. Germain.
"We said that at some point he would have to rest because of the load of minutes played," Martino told reporters Monday, according to a translation from ESPN FC. "Clearly, Wednesday is not going to be that day. If he does not tell me he wants to rest, he will continue to play."
It will be Miami's third consecutive road match and Cincinnati may represent, arguably, its toughest opponent yet.
FC Cincinnati currently leads the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield, awarded at the end of the season to the team with the best regular-season record. They have taken an impressive 34 out of 36 points possible in 12 home league games, being held to a draw only by New England on July 1.
Another Argentina product — Luciano Acosta — currently leads Cincinnati and is tied for second in MLS with 12 goals.
But the Orange and Blue are actually facing a shorter turnaround than the Herons, following a 3-0 loss at Columbus in their return to league play Sunday after the conclusion of Leagues Cup.
Cincinnati is looking to avoid back-to-back losses in all competitions this season.
"There's no relief after a performance like that," Cincinnati manager Pat Noonan said. "You try to use some of the things that we saw (against Columbus) in a negative way to build and have a better overall team performance on Wednesday."
—Field Level Media