It's not that Eleanor Roosevelt senior soccer player Dan Remsberg doesn't like to score. It's just that Remsberg has found the lure of the game in denying opponents the opportunity to do just that.
That's just the way Remsberg is, and his father, for one, recognized it early.
"My Dad says I'm defensive-minded," said Remsberg, 17, whose strength as a sweeper and stopper for the Raiders is hidden underneath his compact 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame. "I was always looking to pass. I'm not a natural scorer. Actually, defense comes naturally."
About the only time Remsberg gets a chance to compile points is when he straps on a helmet and pads to kick field goals for Roosevelt's football team. On the soccer field, his appreciation for defense is refreshing.
In a game in which scoring is often scant, skilled defenders and goalkeepers are crucial. They usually excel with a combination of solid footwork, instinctive field vision and uncanny determination.
"I think of defenders in soccer like the man-to-man defense in basketball," Gwynn Park boys soccer coach William Ibarra said. "You have to have great footwork and be aggressive."
It is that in-the-trenches style of play that appeals most to Remsberg. As an opposing team is bringing the ball down the field, he's on the spot, protecting his team's goal.
"There's something about being in the open field against another team's striker, where it's you against him," Remsberg said. "And you've got to stop him. It's a good feeling."
Remsberg knows if he and his teammates don't take the ball away, the last line of defense will be an exposed goalie, who will have little chance of defending the wide net on his own.
"You can't think that the goalie is there if you don't mark your man," Remsberg said. "It's not good enough. In the back of my mind, I know that he is there. But most times when a team scores a goal, it's not the goalie's fault. It's the back line that has broken down. Everybody might not see that you've messed up."
To prepare for a game, Remsberg said he spends a lot of time studying the moves of the opposing teams' offensive stars. He watches for the subtleties of their moves--the tendency to use head and shoulder fakes or other set-up moves to advance the ball.
"I want to figure out a way so that the marquee players who are trying to get through the line can't create," Remsberg said. He watches a play develop and anticipates where to position himself.
"I'm so focused on what I can do to stop the play," Remsberg said. "I keep all my thoughts out of my mind so that my vision is clear."
Sometimes, the plays develop so fast that Remsberg doesn't have time to get a body in front of the ball, so he'll resort to using his upper body to muscle an opponent. That's where his strength training comes into play. He and a teammate lift weights several times a week.
"Defense gets overlooked in soccer, just like any other sport," Remsberg said. "Lots of times it can be the key of the game."
Don't get Remsberg wrong, he understands that scoring is important, too. But he believes the core of a team begins with the strength of its defense.
"You need to score to win," he said. "But you also need a steady back line so that you get enough chances to score goals in time."
After denying a team the chance to score, defenders have to get the ball to the strikers and midfielders quickly, so they can start running the team's offense. "Don't tell defenders that they aren't a part of the offense, because they are," Roosevelt Coach George Kallas said.
Occasionally, Remsberg even gets a chance to play on offense as a midfielder. He's even scored a goal and had a couple of assists this season. But his heart is still with the defense.
"It's about having no fear and winning the ball away from the other team's players."
CAPTION: Eleanor Roosevelt sweeper Dan Remsberg, who doubles as the Raiders' place kicker, says "defense comes naturally" to him.