CONCACAF Champions Cup
Lionel Messi, Inter Miami knocked out of Concacaf Champions Cup with 3-1 loss to Monterrey
CONCACAF Champions Cup

Lionel Messi, Inter Miami knocked out of Concacaf Champions Cup with 3-1 loss to Monterrey

Published Apr. 11, 2024 1:12 a.m. ET

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami are out of the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Despite Messi's return to the Herons' starting lineup for their quarterfinal second leg in Mexico against Monterrey, Miami lost 3-1 in the game and 5-2 on aggregate over the two matches. The GOAT missed last week's opener because of a lingering hamstring injury.

But he was fired up to play this one after a spat with Monterrey manager and fellow Argentine Fernando Ortiz spilled into public view in the lead up to Wednesday's decider. With Messi launching himself into multiple first half tackles, Miami started well at Estadio BBVA, one of the most imposing away venues in the entire region. 

But a dreadful giveaway by Inter keeper Drake Callender shortly before halftime gifted Rayados and U.S. men's national team striker Brandon Vazquez what turned out to be the fatal blow. Germán Berterame made it 4-1 on aggregate for Monterrey — which will face MLS's Columbus Crew in the semis — before Jesús Gallardo added a fifth. Diego Gómez got a consolation goal for Miami late in the second half.


Here are a few quick thoughts on Wednesday's contest.

Monterrey vs. Inter Miami CF Highlights | FOX Soccer

Play of the game

There was nothing lucky about Berterame's deal-sealing second goal Wednesday. After dancing past a Heron defender, he unleashed a blistering shot that beat Callender clean:

Turning point

No doubt it was Callender's gaffe. That's the cruel reality for the USMNT keeper, who has been superb for Miami otherwise, including in this game; he made several quality saves before and after Vazquez scored.

It came just one day after Columbus Crew backstop Patrick Schulte made an almost identical mistake across town, where the Crew went on to beat Liga MX's Tigres on penalties — with Schulte stopping two shootout attempts. Unfortunately for Callender, there would be no redemption story this time.

Key stat

The Herons came into the game knowing that, because of the away goals tiebreaker, they'd have to score at least twice to have any hope of advancing. Yet despite owning 60 percent of the possession, Miami mustered just one shot on goal all night.

What's next for Inter Miami?

Even though they won the Leagues Cup last season ahead of every other MLS and Liga MX team, this was the Herons' first true test on enemy territory. Despite the presence of Messi and his former Barcelona running buddies Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez, they were in no way prepared for the heaving, totally partisan environment that awaited them in Monterrey. Despite (and maybe even because) of their respect for the living legend, Messi was the lead villain for the home fans from the start. The beef with Ortiz ensured it, and Rayados backers loved every second of their team's beat-down. They even got a red card to Alba before it was over.

It's a humbling outcome for Miami, no question. Coach Tata Martino said publicly that this competition was the club's top priority. But the club can't wring its hands too much here. The MLS season is a marathon, and they are legit MLS Cup contenders. There's that Leagues Cup to defend. A Supporters Shield is attainable, too. That must be the focus now, starting with Saturday's trip to Sporting Kansas City.

What's next for Monterrey?

A delicious meeting with the Crew. The best two teams in North America's best two leagues will go head-to-head over two legs later this month, with Columbus hosting the curtain-raiser. That means another decider south of the border, which is no small disadvantage for the reigning MLS Cup champs. Los Rayados are the clear favorites to claim a sixth Concacaf crown now. But the mountains of Monterrey can be scaled. The Crew have already proven it once.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United Statesmen's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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