Christian Robert stands tall in net for Naperville North

SHARE Christian Robert stands tall in net for Naperville North

Naperville North senior Christian Robert has nearly everything Division I soccer coaches look for in a goalkeeper.

He has speed, strength, fearlessness, and an impressive knowledge of the game.

One thing Robert doesn’t have is height. If he was 6-4, recruiters would be burning up his phone, but since he’s 5-8, they ignore him.

“For a college keeper, they want the height,” Robert said. “They want someone who’s tall who they can make [into] a good keeper, not a short kid, because they can’t make them taller.

“Unfortunately, I don’t really fit the bill in that aspect. It’s a bummer.”

But not for Naperville North coach Jim Konrad, who is thrilled to have Robert between the posts.

“Christian is one of those kids who is absolutely fearless,” Konrad said. “He is the most courageous kid I’ve ever seen. He’ll just force his body to do stuff. He would gladly break something for us to win.

While he hasn’t broken bones, Robert has taken his lumps. He hyperextended his arm while making a save in a match last year, which combined with overuse led to surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.

The usual recovery period is eight months. Robert was back playing for the baseball team in 3 ½.

Baseball is Robert’s best sport, and he was hoping to play it in college. But the injury hampered his hitting and forced a position switch from shortstop to second base.

That hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm for baseball or soccer, a sport he plays only during the high school season. That makes his performance this fall, which includes seven shutouts, more remarkable.

“I don’t play soccer in the summer, but I do train three times a week,” Robert said. “I do think each sport complements each other. The shortstop position, you’ve got to have quickness and be able to move side to side. You have to have those same attributes to be a goalie.”

Robert has them in spades. They were on display last month when he rushed out to make a game-saving tackle on a breakaway by Fremd’s Luke Schoffstall.

“Christian is spectacular off his line,” Konrad said. “I cannot imagine another goalkeeper who is faster out of the goal than Christian is. He’s like a cat.

Robert, a three-year starter, plays with an intense, high-flying style that belies his size. He gets his hands on a surprisingly high percentage of crosses and other dangerous balls.

“I think because of the baseball [experience] he reads the ball so well,” Konrad said. “He gets under them so even though he’s not 6-4, he still is very good in the air because he can get up and he’s quick to the ball with super-soft hands.”

With no college career to look forward to, Robert feels driven to make his final season a memorable one.

“Being a captain, I know that I have to not only push myself but make sure the whole team is pushing themselves and keep everyone on track,” Robert said. “We all have common goals and so that’s my biggest focus.”

While it won’t include collegiate sports, Robert’s future is bright. With a 34 ACT, he has his pick of colleges, and hopes to follow his father, an optometrist, into the medical field.

“My parents have taught me growing up [to] put others before yourself,” Robert said. “That’s the important thing, so I want to do something that will not only reward myself but others for the rest of my life.”

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