After getting axed on the eve of the 2010 MLS season, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch should have no worries about receiving similar treatment in 2011.
Busch, who joined the Quakes one week into the schedule after being released by Chicago, triumphed in the battle of No. 1s that ran as a subplot throughout the Quakes’ 2010 campaign. The 34-year-old outlasted incumbent Joe Cannon, who was selected last month by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Expansion Draft.
Without another ‘keeper currently on the roster, it’s fairly certain that Busch will be in net for San Jose on March 19 when they open the year against Real Salt Lake.
“Am I excited to stay there? Absolutely,” Busch told MLSsoccer.com. “I thoroughly enjoyed being there. I’m excited to be part of what [coach Frank Yallop] and [general manager John Doyle] and all those guys are building. I think there’s a lot of potential in this team and this organization to get back to where they were when they were winning championships in the old days.”
Even as Busch and Cannon traded the starting spot back and forth – Cannon had just reclaimed No. 1 status in August before breaking his ankle, an injury that gave the job to Busch for the remainder of the year – the pair, both of whom had been involved in No. 1 battles during earlier stops in their MLS careers, steered clear of any public mudslinging over who should start.
But, Busch said, that truce had an expiration date that was fast approaching.
[inline_node:323441]“Both of us knew that at the end of the season, something was going to be done, one way or the other,” Busch said. “You weren’t going to be able to keep both of us there for Year Two. It was no use trying to figure out what was going to happen down the road. You just do your job and one of us was going to be there [in 2011] and one of us wasn’t. That’s the way both of us looked at it.”
In the end, the Whitecaps solved the Quakes’ dilemma, leaving San Jose with an established No. 1 in Busch, but no No. 2 in sight. Brian Edwards, who was Busch’s understudy after Cannon’s injury, was signed before each game to a temporary contract. Thus, finding a permanent backup and successor is one of the top priorities on Doyle’s to-do list.
Busch, who had an earlobe sliced open by Houston’s Cam Weaver as both men chased after a cross in an October match but didn’t miss any time, won’t change his style of play just because there isn’t another No. 1 behind him. He’s working out six days a week – three on the field, three in gym – during this offseason, but that’s typical for him, not something special he’s doing just because his backup could be a rookie or an untested quantity.
“I’ve never worried about who’s behind me,” Busch said. “I’ve never let that dictate how I prepare each week and how much work I put into it. I’ve always set my own standards, my own bar, if you will. It doesn’t matter who’s behind me, because at the end of the day, if I’m not doing my job, then I shouldn’t be playing. It should never be a given that I’m going to play every game.”
If Busch plays anything like he did in the final two months of 2010, it will be a given. The talkative veteran helped hold together a defense that dealt with multiple injuries over the course of the year but still managed to set a new franchise record for shutouts, with 13.
And Busch can see even better things for San Jose’s backline, which is currently slated to bring back all of its principals from 2010 and enjoy the recovery of second-year center back Ike Opara, whose impressive rookie year was cut short by a broken foot.
“The biggest thing we need to understand, on the first day we walk into preseason, is that last year’s done,” Busch said. “We can’t live on what we did last year. Jason [Hernandez] and I talked about this after the Colorado game: We now have the feeling of what it feels like to make the playoffs again, what it feels like to win a playoff series. We need to build off of that, start building the new legacy of this team, of making the playoffs and making runs in the playoffs."
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes
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