Tristan Muyumba, Brooks Lennon and a Kamal Miller own goal put the home side in front at the end of the first half before Georgios Giakoumakis and Tyler Wolff each scored in the second as Atlanta (12-8-9, 45 points) improved to 9-3-3 at home. The club remains in sixth in the MLS Eastern Conference after the victory.
Leonardo Campana scored twice for Miami (8-15-4, 28 points), who saw their 12-game unbeaten streak across all competitions come to an end.
Miami manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said Messi and Spanish defender Jordi Alba missed the game due to “muscular fatigue” and that their absences were not related to the FieldTurf surface at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United coach Gonzalo Pineda said he learned about Messi’s decision on social media.
“I checked the Twitter account to know he was not coming,” Pineda said, adding he encouraged his players to remain focused despite the attention given Messi’s status.
“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 about us.”
Trailing 3-1 early in the second half, Campana’s second goal on a penalty kick pulled Inter Miami to within one.
Giakoumakis responded for Atlanta in the 76th minute, restoring the two-goal lead, and Wolff added an insurance score in the 89th minute. Giakoumakis’ 14th goal tied him for the league lead.
Inter Miami opened the scoring in the 25th minute on Campana’s eighth goal of the season. Atlanta erased the deficit by scoring three times in eight minutes to carry a 3-1 lead into half-time.
Muyumba scored the equalizer for Atlanta in the 36th minute, putting a header past Miami keeper Drake Callender. The play was reviewed to determine if the ball crossed the goal line, but the video was inconclusive.
Lennon gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead, taking a Caleb Wiley cross and beating Callender with a right-footed strike from the middle of the box for his fourth goal of the season.
Miami has matches at home against Toronto on Wednesday and at Orlando on Sept. 24 before the U.S. Open Cup final against the Houston Dynamo three days later.
Information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.