MLS coach slams officiating, treatment of Lionel Messi in loss to Inter Miami

Lionel messi

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Lionel Messi has been a welcomed addition to Major League Soccer, with one exception: Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja.

Inter Miami celebrated a 3-1 victory over Orlando City on Wednesday in a Leagues Cup match in which Messi scored twice, making it his second consecutive multi-goal performance since joining the team and his third-straight scoring.

Messi celebrates a win

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal against Orlando City in the first half of a Leagues Cup Round of 32 match at DRV PNK Stadium on August 2, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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Pareja, however, was less than impressed with the officiating and suggested that the international star received preferential treatment from referees, calling the whole thing a “circus.”

“There was a double yellow card for Messi. I don’t care that he was Messi,” he said after the game via AFP. “That affects the game. The match should be fair and that was not the case on the field.”

Lionel Messi gets a yellow card

Lionel Messi of Inter Miami receives a yellow card after a tackle on Wilder Cartagena of Orlando City at DRV PNK Stadium on August 2, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)

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Messi was given a yellow card in the 21st minute of the game after a hard foul, but after a similar foul later in the game, Pareja felt Messi should’ve been given another yellow card, which would have resulted in a red card and his exit from the game.

He also took issue with a penalty kick that was awarded to Miami when the game was tied 1-1 and with the officials for not reviewing the play.

Oscar Pareja stands on the sideline

Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja is shown during a game with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on June 17, 2023, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“We take our responsibility, OK, we lost, we are frustrated, but I have to say [this], you cannot hide this kind of situation,” he continued.

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Messi scored seven minutes into the match and again at the 72-minute mark. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has now recorded five goals in three games since his highly anticipated MLS debut on July 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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