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In goal, still on ball

The Baltimore Sun

Patterson senior Denilson Pazos made five saves in his first start as a soccer goalie in last week's 1-0 win over Poly. A midfielder last season, Pazos volunteered to fill in when the Clippers were without a goalie in preseason. Born in Los Angeles, Pazos has moved back and forth from the United States to his parents' native Guatemala several times. Most recently, he lived in Guatemala from 2001 to 2006. He has attended 12 schools. He plans to graduate from Patterson, where he takes advanced placement classes and has a 97 percent academic average. Pazos lives with his father and his 16-year-old sister, Susan, also a Patterson soccer player, and frequently visits his mother and two younger brothers in Zapaca, Guatemala.

When did you start playing soccer?

When I was in fifth grade. Then I moved back to Guatemala and I started playing with a plastic ball there. [Later], I started playing Division B [a low level of semi-pro soccer]. I played with big persons, like 23. I was the youngest on my team. When I played in that division, I was 16, and the second youngest was 18.

Is there a difference in the level of soccer you were playing in Guatemala and what you play at Patterson?

The styles are different. The way they play there, they pass more and run less. Here they run more with the ball than passing. There, they don't play lots of balls in the air, they play more on the ground.

What do you like about being a goalie?

It's not an easy job like it looks. I'm a nervous type of guy and, for me, it's a challenge to concentrate, to start forgetting about all the stuff and just put my head in the game. You always make mistakes, but ... every game I play I learn something.

Why did you become a goalie?

I'm the type of person that I'll help out, and I think to be the best soccer player, you have to play every position. You have to think. To be a goalie, for me, is sometimes easier, because I know how a forward thinks and how the midfielder thinks. Sometimes I know where they're going to kick the ball because I've been playing in that position and I start thinking, "If I was them, where would I kick the ball?" That's probably why I'm good at goalie.

Have you followed David Beckham's move to the United States?

Yeah. He's too much for this league. I think he's come here not just for playing. It's to [promote] soccer in the United States, because soccer is not so popular here as other places in the world.

Do you think that's a good idea?

Yes. I watch ESPN, and they were talking about how this wasn't the first time they did this. Because back in the time of Pele, they brought him here just to [promote] soccer, so that's probably the strategy they've been having: bring other big players here so people will pay more attention.

Have you been watching the Women's World Cup on TV?

I was trying to watch the women's soccer, but it's not all sponsored. In Guatemala, the Women's World Cup, that last time, it was all over the newspapers. It was all over all media and here, I don't see lots of coverage. I think the media has to do more.

Do you have a favorite soccer player?

[Diego] Maradona. He's a small guy, and I'm small, too. He's a midfielder. He was everywhere. He's a creative person. When he plays, he keeps the ball in the middle of his feet, so that's why it's impossible to take the ball from him.

What are your plans after graduation?

I'm trying to get a scholarship. I'd like to play in college. If I don't get the opportunity, I may move back to Guatemala and go to the university over there, so I'd probably play professional soccer over there.

What's your career interest?

I would like to go to medical school. I want to be a surgeon, but it's hard to get a scholarship, so I'm looking at engineering. I like atomic engineering ... or software engineering. I like computers. I like math. I like science a lot, but I'm colorblind, so I cannot be a chemical engineer or a biological engineer. I couldn't mix chemicals.

You just turned 19 on Sept. 11. How did the terrorist attacks affect your birthday in 2001?

When I found out, it was about 10 o'clock in the morning. I thought they were bombing us or something. Everyone was worried. We didn't celebrate. Everyone said, "Happy birthday," and that's it, but when that happened, I wasn't thinking about my birthday. I was more worried about what was happening. It's different now.

You said you would take AP English and AP Spanish this year. Is Spanish your native language?

I have trouble with both of them [laughs]. First, I just knew English and then Spanish. When I moved to Guatemala, I failed first grade, because I couldn't do the work. I didn't know enough Spanish. When I moved back to here, I had forgotten English, so I had to start all over again.

What did you do this summer?

I went to Guatemala. I played soccer, street soccer. I cannot live without playing soccer. That's my life. I went to the courtyard, like 3 p.m., and I came back at my house at like 11 p.m. All day playing soccer.

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