BY Art Thiel 12:54AM 03/24/2011

Water cooler cool: The weekend scene

Sounders have the spotlight to themselves; now to find a goal

Goal this way, ball that way: A summary of the Sounders' seasonal start / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Each Thursday, Art Thiel checks out the weekend sports scene locally and offers more casual sports fans some observations that can get them in and out of conversations without anyone catching on to your, ahem, casualness.

Whether at the water cooler, bus, lunchroom, frat kegger or cocktail party, you can drop in a riposte, bon mot or bit o’ wit to start a conversational conflagration, or put one out. Then walk away.

FRIDAY

Sounders FC soccer:  Houston (0-1) at Seattle (0-2), Qwest Field, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel) — After the end of the local college basketball season (the nearest team to Puget Sound still in the NCAA tournament is in Provo, Utah, so good luck with that hometown angle) and before the start of regular-season Major League Baseball (although at 13-7 before last night, the Mariners lead the spring training standings; getcher tickets now!), the Sounders have a rare moment on the stage to themselves.

And wouldn’t you know it — they have all the momentum of gravel ice cream.

Face-planting out of the gate with consecutive 1-0 losses, the Sounders were so sufficiently feckless that coach Sigi Schmid felt compelled to issue a no-hand-wringing advisory.

“It’s important that we don’t panic,” he said. “Sometimes good fortune goes your way and you end up with the results, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Schmid’s shrug makes for a calm veneer. But even in soccer, 180 minutes without a score is a tad barren. Usually by now, a random ricochet will have gone off the back of a defender’s head into the net. So feel free to ignore Schmid’s no-panic admonition and slip into a mild hysteria. You’re not a player, you’re a fan. It’s your prerogative. But wait at least until the third consecutive shutout before spitting up, or losing intestinal control.

Although the Sounders in their two-plus seasons seem to bag doughnuts with the frequency of Top Pot, there are more anemic teams. As Steve Rudman’s research in Nobody Asks But Us points out, five other MLS teams exceed the Sounders’ 18 whiffs to date. In fact, the New York Red Bulls, who beat the Sounders Saturday (on just two shots on goal!) and are Eastern Conference favorites, lead the league with 23 shutouts.

Soccer’s adherents always say minimalism is the nature of the game; if you like big numbers, go play pinball. But even the Sounders recognize their offense is thin enough to to be transparent, so they hired last week an international player of some repute, Argentine Mauro Rosales, to provide a little help in the midfield.

He will fill some of the void left by another international, Blaise Nkufo, who split from the team on the eve of the opener in a dispute over a host of issues — style, playing time, age, contract size and, perhaps, who got the best of the Treaty of Versailles. But whether the presence of Rosales means a goal gets scored is unknowable.

When it does happen, be it Friday or sometime before the sun goes supernova, impress your friends by being cool, and avoid giving in to the cliche exaggeration of a score. Simply say:

“If God had wanted scoring in soccer, he’d have done what he did in basketball and given the money only to scorers, and in baseball, where he gave scorers wooden clubs.”

The Rotation’s weekly schedule:

  • Monday: That Was The Week That Was — A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
  • Tuesday: Wayback Machine — Sports historian David Eskenazi’s deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
  • Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us — We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
  • Thursday: Water Cooler Cool – Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
  • Friday: Top 5 List — The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as we’re concerned.

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