Messi was caught criticizing MLS rules on Apple broadcast and more during Inter Miami's 3-2 win over Montreal

Inter Miami's 3-2 win over CF Montreal on Saturday night was now the typical Inter Miami performance: it was another comeback win. After conceding the first two goals of the match, Miami once again fought back to claim a win in Messi's first match on Canadian soil. It was Miami's fifth consecutive win after losing for the first time, a trend that has defined the first half of the team's 2024 season. It also marked the first time Miami has won five consecutive MLS games for the first time in club history.

New MLS rules irk Messi, Martino and Suarez

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In April, MLS implemented a series of new in-game rules that are beginning to make headlines. Veteran referee Ismail Elfath's stadium VAR announcement went viral last week. In Montreal, what MLS calls off-field treatment rules and timed substitution rules have given it the status of the league's premier club.

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Late in the first half, Messi took a stand-up tackle from Montreal center back Jorge Campbell, after which Miami medical staff treated the Argentinian on the field. Campbell did not receive a yellow card for the challenge and Messi eventually walked off the field, but he became clearly agitated when the fourth official held him on the sidelines for two minutes. According to MLS, the new off-field treatment rule requires that players “remain off the field for at least two minutes for further evaluation and treatment.”

But Messi was eager to return to the field. When Inter Miami earned a free kick just outside the Montreal penalty area (an ideal spot for a left-footed player), Messi turned to a sideline camera, shook his head and appeared to say, “If they had rules like this If we make… then we are doing bad.” Matias Rojas stepped up for Messi and calmly placed the free kick into the top right corner of the Montreal net.

Later, Suárez was substituted in the 90th minute, but did not leave the pitch for less than 10 seconds. The timed substitution rule stipulates the following: “Failure to exit from any point on the field within 10 seconds causes the substituting player to wait a 60-second holding period before entering the game at the next stoppage. Holding Period During and before the entry of the substitute, the team will play one player down. Exceptions to the rule include injury and goalkeeper replacement.”

After the match, Martino told reporters his thoughts on the rule change.

“Leo was fouled and (Campbell) should have got a yellow card, which would have ended Leo needing to go off for two minutes,” Martino said. “For me, the team that suffered the violation was punished. Obviously with these new rules there will be situations that will need to be analyzed. It was clearly a yellow card violation and then we lost Leo for two minutes.

Suarez had to stop Martino from confronting the fourth officer, but Martino attributed it to a misunderstanding between his staff and the officer. However Martino thought Suárez had one minute to leave the pitch rather than 10 seconds.

Rosa continues to shine

The Paraguay international's impressive free kick, as Messi watched from the touchline, will receive a lot of attention.

However, his assist to Cremaschi was just as important for Inter Miami's winner.

With Montreal's midfield and backline centered on Messi, Rojas became Inter Miami's playmaker. Rojas and Messi are attracting too much attention from the opposition, which, in this case, allowed Cremaschi to make an unmarked run through the middle and finish.

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Rojas is a versatile midfielder who excels in the final third. He is an essential addition for Martino, a manager who is very well aware of the strengths of Paraguay's players. From 2002 to 2006, Martino won four first division titles with Paraguay's two biggest clubs, Libertad and Cerro Porteño. He was instrumental in Paraguayan Miguel Almiron's decision to sign with Atlanta United in 2016. Two years later, Almiron would become the most expensive sale in league history.

During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Rojas told reporters in Fort Lauderdale that he had received interest from Boca Juniors. “It's an extraordinary club but I was already planning my career elsewhere,” Rojas explained.

He did not mention Martino, but it is safe to assume that a phone call from Martino still holds great significance in South America, especially in Paraguay.

Martino takes blame for slow start

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino previously talked about his team's tendency to start slow. Martino said last week that it has been discussed and reiterated during team meetings, but the solution is not that concrete.

“It cannot always be analyzed from the same angle. Sometimes the other team makes plays,” Martino said after the game. “Obviously the preference is that we score first and then manage the game from there. “The circumstances tonight were different from previous incidents.”

However, Martino took the blame for falling behind by two goals early on Saturday. Inter Miami started in a 5-3-2, which Martino said was intended to stretch the team's lines and press Montreal high up the field. Instead, Montreal found space on the wings and counter-attacked Inter Miami with ease. After Montreal's second goal, Martino changed Inter Miami's formation to a 4–4–2. This season, Inter Miami has been most effective in the back-four.

“I don't want to change the way the team plays,” Martino said. “We feel comfortable playing a specific way. I modified the team tonight to match Montreal's strengths. When we went back to 4-4-2, it was us.”

Luckily for Martino, Inter Miami is led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan scored his 11th goal in first-half extra time, leveling the score at 2-2 before the break. Inter Miami Academy product Benjamin Cremaschi scored what would be the winner in the 59th minute. However, Messi was kept off the score sheet after a record-breaking performance against the New York Red Bulls last weekend, which snapped his seven-match MLS scoring streak.

The Argentina captain could not repeat his five assists and one goal against Montreal, but despite injury fears, the 36-year-old was active in attack throughout the match.

Inter Miami remains on top of the Eastern Conference standings with 27 points from 13 games. He has scored 35 goals and conceded 20.

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