Argentine artist Maximiliano Bagnasco paints a giant mural of international soccer star Lionel Messi in Wynwood, Miami s art district, in Miami, Florida, on July 10, 2023. AFP
Miami confirmed the arrival of Messi hours before their game kicked off in Missouri, but that couldn't inspire Gerardo Martino's team to victory as they suffered their 14th defeat in 22 games.
Miami are bottom of the Eastern Conference and their latest loss also left them in last place in the overall standings -- 29th of 29 clubs.
That leaves Messi, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner and Argentina World Cup hero, playing for officially the worst team in MLS.
Fortunately for the club and their new star, MLS does not, like most leagues in the world, have relegation. But Messi will need to have a transformational impact on the field if the club are to make a push towards the playoffs.
Messi has been expected to make his debut on Friday against Cruz Azul in the new Leagues Cup, a tournament featuring all the top-flight teams from MLS and Mexico's Liga MX.
MLS is suspending its play for a month while the Leagues Cup is played, meaning the 36-year-old former Barcelona star won't have a chance to start helping Miami up the league table until they host Charlotte on August 20.
But while the move has excited fans and gives Miami and MLS a chance to grow their popularity and revenue, the Florida club clearly hope that Messi will be able to raise the levels of his teammates.
"Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent. What he brings on and off the field will elevate everyone around him and we're excited to have him at Inter Miami," the club's Sporting Director Chris Henderson said on Saturday.
There was nothing exciting about Miami's performance in St. Louis, however, with the home side taking the lead in the 28th minute thanks to a header from a corner buried by Samuel Adeniran.
St. Louis, top of the Western Conference in their debut season, made it 2-0 five minutes before the break, with Miami again unable to defend a corner as Tim Parker glanced in a header at the near post.
German Eduard Loewen completed Miami's misery with a thundering free-kick, 10 minutes from the end.
- Disappointing debut -
It was a disappointing first game in charge for former Barcelona and Argentina coach Martino, who said fans would need to be patient with Messi and left open the question of whether he would feature against Cruz Azul.
"We look to the future with hope (given) that the best player in the world will play for our team, but also with the patience that we have to have so that he can get in good physical shape and can play at the right moment," he said.
"We ended up losing the game with three set pieces, which, of course, is valid and that's how games are won. We have a lot of stuff to correct," he added.
Eastern Conference leaders FC Cincinnati continued their outstanding home form with their 11th win in 12 games thanks to a 3-1 win over a Nashville team who ended with nine men for the second straight game.
USA defender Walker Zimmerman put Nashville ahead in the 31st minute with a tap-in after Cincinnati keeper Roman Celentano failed to hold onto a cross.
The home side drew level through a 42nd-minute Luciano Acosta penalty but then Nashville saw Taylor Washington and Fata Picault both sent off for second yellow cards, leaving them two men down for the final 20 minutes.
Acosta set up Santiago Arias with a clever diagonal pass in the 74th minute before newly signed Gabonese striker Aaron Boupendza made sure of the win.
Ian Harkes, son of former US international John, scored twice for the New England Revolution, second in the East, as they beat Wayne Rooney's D.C. United 4-0.
Last season's runners-up, the Philadelphia Union beat 2021 champions New York City 2-1 with goals from Jose Martinez and Chris Donovan.
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