It is not difficult to find someone around MLS with the opinion that Rivalry Week, for all its attached awesomeness, arrived a little early.
It’s like a big, juicy, steak with perfect grill lines – but one served up a mere three hours after a huge lunch. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the product; it’s the timing that’s off.
MLS rivalry week in Round 3 of 34?
It is only March, after all.
Not everyone shared the opinion. And honestly, it didn’t bother me very much going in. While it might be nice to have this play out toward the back end of the record long regular season window, the playoff races typically carry September and October. Or that was my theory.
Looking at some of the crowd counts around the league on the first attempt at Rivalry Week, there’s some evidence that perhaps the timing could be better.
Crowds were fantastic in Montreal and Seattle. The grounds were full in Utah for Real Salt Lake’s Rocky Mountain rivalry.
On the other hand, plenty of dandy seats were available in Philadelphia (in fairness, a crowd of 15,689 in lousy weather wasn’t bad at PPL Park), New York and Dallas. Same for the game going on right now at the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles.
Perhaps the season needs to steep a little more before we go biting into all the delicious acrimony and hostility of the league’s chief rivals. Applause to MLS for trying something. This is only the first spin of the Rivalry Week wheel. They deciders will have plenty of opportunity to adjust.
Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.
Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.
And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.
[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]
Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.
“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”
It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).
“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.
“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”
Feel good hit of the Spring.
Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.
Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.
[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]
$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.
The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.
The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.
But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.
[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]
Scotland 1-1 Canada
Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.
Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.
Germany 1-0 England
Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.
Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.
The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.
Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India
James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.
McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.
[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]
McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.
He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.