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Two thoughts on Atlanta United’s dreadful performance in Lionel Messi’s full debut for Inter Miami

Unfortunately, the world was watching.

Leagues Cup 2023: Inter Miami CF v Atlanta United Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

So, that happened.

No sooner than you could crack a beverage, Lionel Messi left his stamp on the Five Stripes with an 8th minute goal at DRV PNK Stadium Tuesday night, and by halftime after scoring a brace, there was only ever going to be one storyline out of Atlanta United’s 4-0 Leagues Cup loss to Inter Miami.

Here are my thoughts (and I’m going to spare you the drooling over Messi’s performance, not because it wasn’t sensational, but that I have nothing else to add):

Messi’s arrival will magnify poor play across the league

Obviously many of us were lamenting Atlanta United’s poor play by the second half of Tuesday night’s loss. But we’ve seen bad games before. We get upset, blame the manager, self-flagellate, say “Boca Out”, and go to bed angry. Been there, done that.

But Tuesday was different because the world was watching. Not the entire world, granted, but people from all over the world. More people than would normally be tuned into a domestic soccer game and contributing to the online discourse. Enough people for that discourse to turn into a public shaming of Atlanta United, from Taylor Twellman’s [accurate] in-game analysis to the last meme on Twitter. THAT, then resulted in even more self-loathing and frustration among Atlanta United fans, and it boiled into toxic rage.

This is just an example of what can happen to a team and it’s fanbase when they step into the arena against Lionel Messi. Because Lionel Messi is a viral moment everywhere he goes. And if he’s stomping on your face with a hobnail boot, well, you’re gonna get laughed at and you’re going to have to deal with that.

But it’s not just Atlanta that this will happen to. Miami is, remarkably, a bona fide contender at this point despite their status at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. They will do this to many teams, and it’s likely that more and more people will start to get in on the Messi Mania to create even bigger spectacles in the future.

So when you come at Messi and Miami, you better not miss or you’ll look foolish. Atlanta United missed bigtime.

Basically nothing went right for Atlanta

Seriously, if you can think of one thing, please leave it in the comments. They got blown out and publicly embarrassed, didn’t score, were denied a penalty, Tristan Muyumba didn’t play, and she didn’t text back. Let’s now cross our fingers and pray no one picked up an injury.

Atlanta United’s players were poor. There’s almost no use in singling anyone out when you lose 4-0, but the problems at the back were obvious and Juanjo Purata’s halftime hook speaks in no uncertain terms about his particular role in that performance.

But Pineda approached the game naively as well. The team was too gung-ho, too reckless, too little respect for Miami’s talent. Obviously Pineda respects Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets and Josef Martinez as talents in and of themselves, but I don’t think he fully appreciated what Miami is capable of at such an early stage of this new edition of the team. I suspect he wanted to accomplish two things: 1) overwhelm Miami with their physicality and pace early, and 2) get his players in an aggressive posture and being proactive considering the unique magnitude of the game for his young players.

Neither of those things happened, and it resulted in a side that was leaving too much space behind them and were baited into traps high up the field. It was bad. When you lose like this, everyone has a hand in it. No one is blameless.

And that’s all I have to say about that.