Inter Miami experienced its first loss since Lionel Messi’s arrival in July, succumbing to a 5-2 defeat against Atlanta United in front of a packed crowd of 71,635 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

In a thrilling encounter, Tristan Muyumba, Brooks Lennon, and an unfortunate Kamal Miller own goal saw the home side seize control by halftime. Georgios Giakoumakis and Tyler Wolff added to Atlanta’s lead in the second half, securing the victory for Atlanta (12-8-9, 45 points), who have an impressive home record of 9-3-3. Despite the win, Atlanta remained in sixth place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Leonardo Campana was the shining light for Miami (8-15-4, 28 points), as he managed to score twice, but this marked the end of their impressive 12-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.

Miami’s manager, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, revealed that Messi and Spanish defender Jordi Alba were absent from the game due to “muscular fatigue,” denying any connection to the FieldTurf surface at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta United’s coach, Gonzalo Pineda, discovered Messi’s absence through social media and urged his players to stay focused despite the distraction caused by Messi’s absence.

Pineda stated, “Honestly, I told the players, there are a lot of things out there in the atmosphere and everything seems to be about Inter Miami. We have to turn that to be about us.”

Trailing 3-1 early in the second half, Campana’s second goal from a penalty kick narrowed the gap for Inter Miami.

However, Giakoumakis extended Atlanta’s lead in the 76th minute, while Wolff added an insurance goal in the 89th minute. Giakoumakis’s 14th goal of the season tied him for the league’s top scorer.

Inter Miami took the lead in the 25th minute when Campana notched his eighth goal of the season. Atlanta, however, mounted a stunning comeback, scoring three goals in just eight minutes to hold a 3-1 lead at halftime.

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Muyumba equalized for Atlanta in the 36th minute with a header, though it was subject to video review due to uncertainty over whether the ball crossed the goal line.

Atlanta seized the lead through an own goal, as Xande Silva’s strike deflected off Inter Miami’s defender Kamal Miller and found its way past goalkeeper Drake Callender.

Lennon extended Atlanta’s lead to 3-1, capitalizing on a Caleb Wiley cross and slotting home a right-footed strike from the center of the box, marking his fourth goal of the season.

Looking ahead, Miami faces matches at home against Toronto on Wednesday and an away fixture against Orlando on September 24 before contesting the U.S. Open Cup final against the Houston Dynamo just three days later.

This report incorporates information from Reuters and the Associated Press.