No Messi, no problem: Inter Miami downs slumping Vancouver Whitecaps

Missing Argentine soccer icon Lionel Messi wasn’t an issue for Inter Miami on Saturday.

Even without the World Cup-winning superstar, Miami cruised to a 2-1 victory over the slumping Whitecaps  in Vancouver.

Fans were outraged earlier in the week to hear Miami wasn’t bringing Messi to play in B.C. because of the club’s congested Major League Soccer schedule. The team also left Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets in Florida.

Saturday’s result stretched Vancouver’s winless skid to six games in MLS play while Miami’s unbeaten streak grew to 10 straight outings.

Three soccer players wearing black celebrate on the pitch.
Inter Miami’s Robert Taylor, left, and Leonardo Campana, front right, celebrate Taylor’s goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps as Matias Rojas, back right, watches during the first half. Taylor and Campana both scored in the absence of Messi. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

“(Major League Soccer) is like this. Every team goes through this kind of period during the season,” Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini said after the loss. “We are conscious of the fact that we need to do better, but also we’re conscious of the fact that we can do better.”

Pink No. 10 Messi jerseys still dotted the announced crowd of 51,035 and chants of “Where is Messi?” broke out in the game’s early minutes. 

A gaggle of soccer players celebrate in front of fans, as an opposition player walks away dejectedly.
Inter Miami’s Leonardo Campana (8) celebrates with his teammates after scoring as Vancouver Whitecaps’ Ali Ahmed, front left, looks on. Pink Inter Miami jerseys dotted the stands despite the absence of Messi. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The ‘Caps started off with an aggressive offence, and came tantalizingly close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute. Vancouver did not register a shot on target through the first half, while the visitors logged five.

Miami finally beat the Vancouver goalkeeper in the 38th minute, when Robert Taylor put Miami 1-0 up.

In the second half, Inter Miami striker Leonardo Campana tapped a shot in to give Miami a 2-0 lead in the 54th minute. 

Then, Tomas Aviles bodychecked Fafa Picault inside the penalty area in the 69th minute. While the foul wasn’t initially called, the play was double-checked by the video assistant referee and a penalty was awarded. 

Midfielder Ryan Gauld stepped up to take the kick and sent a right-footed shot past a diving Drake Callendar, cutting Vancouver’s deficit to 2-1.

The home side continued to press in the final minutes, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

A soccer player kicks a ball while a referee in the background makes a gesture to other players.
The Whitecaps captain Ryan Gauld scored from a penalty kick against Inter Miami, but the home side could not find an equalizer. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

“I think that we’re still doing the same things we were doing earlier on in the year, getting to the right spots and creating chances. But it just feels like we’re getting a little unlucky,” said midfielder Ali Ahmed. “We have to be better and hold ourselves accountable.”

The Whitecaps have struggled to find the back of the net recently, scoring just two goals in their last four MLS games. The club had 14 goals across their first six games of the season.

WATCH | Whitecaps player and superfan react to Messi’s absence before the game: 

Whitecaps to host Inter Miami — but Lionel Messi won’t be playing

2 days ago

Duration 5:12

Several soccer stars — including the legendary Lionel Messi — will not be in Miami’s lineup to face Vancouver in their MLS matchup at B.C. Place on Saturday. Peter Czimmerman, president of the Vancouver Southsiders fan group, and Whitecaps player Brian White talk about what the superstar no-show means for fans and the team.

“I think it’s a lot a matter of confidence at the moment,” Sartini said. “So we need to reinstate the confidence and try to get points immediately.”

Saturday marked the first-ever MLS game between Vancouver and Inter Miami. The Whitecaps return to action Wednesday when they take on Sporting Kansas City on the road. Miami will host Atlanta United the same night.

A man wearing a white hoodie blows a bubble using gum in a stadium environment.
Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini blows a bubble while chewing gum as he watches from the sideline. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Messi fans disappointed

Saturday won’t be the first time Messi has missed an MLS game this season. Fans in Orlando, New York and Washington, D.C., were also disappointed when the World Cup winner didn’t play road games in their cities. 

After signing a blockbuster deal with Miami last summer, Messi also missed games in Atlanta and Chicago. The Chicago Fire attempted to win over angry fans by offering a credit for the game. 

A soccer player wearing pink looks down.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi walks is seen on May 18 in a match against DC United. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

After the announcement Messi would not come to Vancouver, the Whitecaps offered everyone at Saturday’s game a free ticket to another regular-season game in 2024. 

Not enough, say fans

But that’s not enough for a group of fans from Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean First Nation in Saskatchewan, who made a 22-hour trip to Vancouver to see their favourite player.

“We found out he wasn’t coming to Kamloops, B.C., so it has kind of taken a toll on us,” Shahean Moosomin told CBC News on Saturday.

WATCH | Fans upset Messi doesn’t make the trip to Vancouver: 

Fans outraged Lionel Messi won’t be playing in Vancouver

2 days ago

Duration 2:27

Several soccer stars — including the legendary Lionel Messi — will not be in Miami’s lineup to face Vancouver in their MLS matchup at B.C. Place on Saturday. As Michelle Morton is finding out, that’s not sitting well with scores of fans who paid a lot of money to see the legend on the pitch.

The group spent about $15,000 to attend the Saturday game, he said. 

“These tickets cost an arm and a leg and a free game on any other day is is not even close to that same price,” said Clement Laliberte, who is also part of the band. 

A fan holds up a sign reading '3 Year Piggy $' and 'No Messi'.
A young fan holds a sign about Lionel Messi before the Vancouver Whitecaps and Inter Miami kicked off on Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Despite the disappointment, other members said they are determined to make the best of the situation.

“We brought our youth here so they could experience a new culture and everything that the city has to offer. So it’s still good,” said the group’s leader Denise Spyglass.


Posted in CBC