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Lionel Messi: Inter Miami striker’s ability ‘hard to put into words’, says team-mate after MLS goal

Lionel Messi playing MLS football for Inter Miami

Lionel Messi “instantly” makes his team-mates better, Inter Miami debutant Leo Afonso has said after the Argentina captain scored on his first appearance for more than a month in a 2-2 home draw with Colorado in the MLS.

Miami have won one of their six games since Messi, who has been struggling with a muscular injury, last featured for Gerardo Martino’s side.

Rafael Navarro put Colorado ahead by scoring a penalty on the stroke of half-time, leading Martino to bring on Messi at the break in a move which resulted in the 36-year-old scoring 12 minutes later.

Messi played a part in Miami going ahead three minutes later when he supplied David Ruiz, whose cross was met by Afonso for the SuperDraft pick’s first goal for the club.

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Despite having only six of the 24 attempts at goal, Colorado levelled two minutes from time through midfielder Cole Bassett to extend Miami’s winless run to four matches.

“Of course,” Afonso replied when he was asked whether Messi had an inspirational impact. “We have to keep fighting to get a result, no matter who is on the field.

“He trained yesterday with us and the small things he does makes it so easy for you to play the game, he’s that good. You become a better player instantly. It’s hard to put into words how good he actually is.”

Inter Miami v Colorado: Monterrey next

Martino said his players had failed to “read” the game properly at times during their latest setback, and they will now attempt to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in the decider of their Concacaf Champions League quarter-final when they visit Mexican opponents Monterrey on Thursday.

The third-placed team in the Eastern Conference took an early lead in the first leg but conceded twice after Ruiz’s 65th-minute dismissal, including an 89th-minute winner.

“We have to win, that’s the most important,” said academy product Afonso, a 22-year-old Brazilian who signed a one-year contract on Monday.

“I expect it to be a packed stadium with a lot of energy and emotions flying through it. It will be a much faster game than this one, with a lot more transitions.”

Messi has five goals and two assists in five appearances this season for Miami, who are next in MLS action when they travel to Sporting KC on April 14.

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