Inter Miami forecast bigger Lionel Messi role against Atlanta United 

The Five Stripes’ current head coach, Gonzalo Pineda, witnessed that euphoric era in Atlanta from afar as a member of Seattle Sounders FC’s coaching staff, and also knows and respects Martino’s work with Mexico, having himself worn an El Tri kit 45 times as a player.

“Regardless of what Mexican media thinks, I think he did a great job in Mexico. At the end he had so many injuries with Mexico that he couldn’t apply what he was working on for so many years,” said Pineda. “Regardless of that, I always express my admiration. I think we think the game in probably the same ways. We like to be protagonists of the game, we like to have control, we like to have possession. We believe that we have to try to play beautiful football for fans to be engaged.

“So I think we have some similarities in there. But of course he has way more experience and way more success than me. I’m at the beginning of my career, and I hope at some point I can have half of the success that Tata has had. Once the whistle blows, I think I have to be the best coach for my team and I have to be up to his level, so I can help my players to be good on the field.”

Cruz Azul largely outplayed the Herons on the opening night of Leagues Cup, yet failed to finish myriad scoring chances and thus left themselves exposed to Messi’s late free-kick magic. As daunting as the Argentine legend’s presence might be, Pineda wants his side to seize both the moment and the tempo of the match as they begin their Leagues Cup campaign – notably boasting midfielder Thiago Almada, Messi’s World Cup-winning teammate with Argentina.

“The best way to limit a very good player to put attacking actions, to create chances on goal, is don’t give them the ball,” Pineda said. “That’s normally how we do, or we try to do, against good players. And of course we know he can be very dangerous, but also is the connection, right? Busquets can be very good at finding him in pockets. And I think if we can deal with that, having more of the ball than them, I think we’re going to be OK.

“It’s just a matter of that personality that it takes to be on that type of stage, that type of stadium with that type of energy, and having more of the ball, having to be always in control of the game, having good possession sequences together when we are in possession, being compact.”

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