11 goals in 10 matches: Is Messi excellent or is the MLS defense too bad?

11 goals in 10 matches: Is Messi excellent or is the MLS defense too bad?

Inter Miami is unbeaten since Messi arrived in July, but there is still much controversy surrounding the impressive form of the 2022 World Cup champion.

11 goals in 10 matches: Is Messi excellent or is the MLS defense too bad?The defense of teams in MLS is not strong enough to accompany Messi? Photo: The Guardian
After a scoreless draw with Nashville, Inter Miami is 10 points behind the Eastern Conference play-off position. Meanwhile, MLS has 10 more rounds to go.

In theory, that’s a big gap but Gerardo Martino’s side are still considered favorites to win the title in December.

The biggest reason is because Miami owns Lionel Messi. The 36-year-old has produced an incredible surge in form since his debut on July 21. El Pulga led the team to the Leagues Cup championship and the US Open final.

The match against Nashville was Messi’s 10th appearance for Miami. Even if he couldn’t score against Nashville, Messi still had 11 goals and 6 assists before. Messi’s effects both on and off the field are amazing.

But it is inevitable to compare the quality between tournaments in the US and Europe. And the question is, is Messi too excellent or are his opponents not up to par?

An interesting comparison is that Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco, who blocked Messi ‘s scoring attempts , is earning a base salary of $90,000 this year. Meanwhile, Messi’s figure is 50-60 million dollars.

This difference shows that the level between players in MLS is uneven. Even though he is 36 years old, Messi’s class is still too different in America. Messi’s performance is very impressive, but the defense of MLS teams is also not highly appreciated.

Messi's touch chart at Inter Miami. Photo: OptaMessi’s touch chart at Inter Miami. Photo: Opta
According to Opta’s heat map, the way Messi plays in Miami is similar to his final seasons at Barcelona and PSG. He rarely assists in defense and hardly touches the ball in the first third of the field. He mainly moves in the middle of the field and on the edge of the penalty area.

Only 5% of Messi’s touches so far at Miami have been in the box. However, he scored 11 goals in 35 shots.

Messi dribbles and passes less successfully than at PSG and Barcelona. At the same time, he also touches the ball much less – an average of 66 times per 90 minutes in the first nine matches at Miami compared to 82 times for PSG and 96 times for Barcelona. However, Messi’s goal conversion rate in Miami is higher.

In short, age and high temperatures in America make Messi move less than when he played in Europe. But the weak defense of MLS teams helps Messi have an impressive scoring performance.

Messi’s 6 goals scored for Miami inside the penalty area all came from the same location. That shows that the defense of teams in MLS makes many positional errors and slow reactions.

More specifically, they cannot judge the situation and even forget Messi. A typical case is Messi’s goal against Atlanta United. Miami’s 3 attacking players in the penalty area faced off against 5 defenders, but Messi could still finish unmarked.

The way Messi suddenly switched between walking on the field and accelerating seemed to surprise MLS. It’s also possible that Messi’s movements and speed of thought are simply too much for an MLS defender.

Remember, Messi has reached his current peak many times. According to Opta, he has scored or assisted nine consecutive matches for club and country 10 times in his career.

And there are still no signs that Messi will decline quickly. In his final season at Barcelona, ​​he scored 30 goals in 35 matches in La Liga. In his final year at Parc des Princes, he scored 16 goals and had 16 assists in 32 matches in Ligue 1. Less than a year ago, Messi scored 7 goals at the World Cup in Qatar.

And in Miami right now, Messi is being led by a coach who knows him very well, Martino. Most importantly, next to El Pulga are his former teammates at Barcelona, ​​Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Fatigue from the upcoming international break could be a problem for Messi, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Miami still cruised to the MLS title this season.
Messi is helping Inter Miami transform their game. Photo: Inter MiamiMessi is helping Inter Miami transform. Photo: Inter Miami

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