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Sandy • Five days ago Kyle Beckerman stuck out his right hand. One by one, it was met by some of the best soccer players in the world. Then the man many consider the planet's very best stuck out his right hand and met the Real Salt Lake midfielder's palm.
It only took Lionel Messi all of three minutes to eventually bury the U.S. men's national team in emphatic fashion. The Argentine star scored and assisted in the 4-0 Copa America Centenario semifinal victory. The No. 1 team in the soccer was steamrolling its way to the moment Messi and Argentines everywhere awaited: Snapping a dreadful 23-year-long streak without a major tournament trophy.
Instead, it all went sideways on the superstar. Messi missed his penalty kick attempt the first for Argentina in the Copa America final against Chile Sunday night. Instead of raising the trophy, a tearful Messi looked on as Chile, for the second straight year, hoisted the Copa America crown.
While the Chileans danced and celebrated their penalty-kick victory, Messi walked through the mixed zone and told reporters that his time with the national team was up. The 29-year-old, a winner of eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League championships with FC Barcelona, said he'd done all he could. Argentina has now lost in three consecutive major tournament finals, including the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as well as last year's Copa America.
"I tried," Messi said. "It was the thing I wanted most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over. I think this is best for everyone. First of all for me, then everyone."
After returning to RSL after over a month with the U.S., Beckerman said Monday he like everyone was caught off guard by Messi's shocking announcement.
"What a player that everybody's got to watch [do] some amazing things," Beckerman said. "Hopefully it's not true."
Three weeks ago, Javier Morales looked on as his two sons met Messi in a hotel lobby. The 36-year-old Argentine midfielder took advantage of the Copa America break to fly to the Bay Area to watch Argentina's 2-1 win over Chile in the opening match.
Asked if he thinks Messi will follow through on his claims Sunday, Morales said, "I hope not."
"I can understand what happened with him," Morales continued. "A lot of pressure, and people in Argentina, you know, [are] sometimes a little bit crazy."
Morales said the reason why some fans and some members of the Argentine press are so tough on Messi comes back to the country once having one of the most successful international players in soccer history in World Cup winner Diego Maradona.
"I think the biggest problem is we had Maradona before, so they compare them all the time," Morales said. "People want Maradona better than Messi. That is no big deal. Both are Argentines, and we should be proud of that."
Once Monday's training session came to a close, Morales went through interviews with reporters while sons Santi and Matias kicked a soccer ball with Beckerman. Matias had his Messi jersey on.
» Cassar sympathetic to Sounders' struggles
The Seattle Sounders stroll into Rio Tinto Stadium Tuesday night still stuck in disappointment, still in search of themselves in 2016. The Sounders have a league-worst 13 goals in 16 matches and are coming off a 2-0 home loss to New York City FC on Saturday. Seattle (5-9-1) is dealing with what RSL dealt with in 2015, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said.
""It's a hungry team, and listen, at the end of the day, they've got talented players all over the place," he said. "I'm watching them, and I'm just feeling their pain, because it's not much more different than what we went through last year. It's a formation change, it's guys that were used to one thing that are now doing something else, and when they're on, they're very dangerous. When they're a little bit disjointed, can you make them pay? That's going to be important. They've got great players, great staff, great management. They'll figure it out it takes some time."
» Attinella's tournament
Jeff Attinella is the RSL goalkeeper during this U.S. Open Cup run. Cassar confirmed Monday that Attinella will start Tuesday against the Sounders and throughout the remainder of the team's Open Cup schedule. The 27-year-old goalie has started three league matches in 2016 and started RSL's penalty-kick shootout win over the Wilmington Hammerheads on June 14.
"I've already told Jeff it's his tournament all the way to the end," Cassar said. "I think that gives him a clear goal, gives our team a clear goal and I don't want him wondering if he's playing. He's got it all the way and we're going to win a trophy with him."