Argentina's Gerardo Martino declares Lionel Messi fit for Panama clash
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Argentina manager Gerardo Martino said that injured star Lionel Messi will be fit to play in four days, a timeline that would make him available to participate against Panama this Friday.
Messi sustained a back injury against Honduras on May 27, and later traveled to Barcelona to attend his trial for tax evasion. He joined up with his teammates last Friday, but was limited to jogging and light work with the ball.
Messi sat out Argentina's 2-1 win over Chile, as the Albiceleste prevailed thanks to goals from Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega. Nicolas Gaitan took Messi's place in the lineup and performed well, often linking up with Di Maria and Banega.
But if Argentina are to win their first trophy since 1993, Messi will need to take the field. Martino sounded optimistic about Messi's progress, though he didn't specify if he would start or play as a substitute.
"Everything has to do with [Messi] being healthy, in a good condition to play the next game," Martino said with the help of a translator.
"He had a very hard blow versus Honduras. After the trip he started working in Barcelona. He was working in the physical aspect a lot. He continued working here. He is kicking the ball better now. We expect that in four days he will be in condition to play. We're thinking that he will recover by then."
Following Argentina's next match against Panama at Chicago's Soldier Field, Martino's charges will face Bolivia on June 14 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.