Busch 'blindsided' by sudden release days before season opener

Veteran was 2008 Goalkeeper of the Year, expected 2010 starter

Former Fire
goalkeeper admitted he was “blindsided by the whole scenario” that suddenly left
him out of a job on Monday night when the 2008 Panasonic Goalkeeper of the
Year was officially released by the club less than a week before the season opener.

The club
parted ways with the 33-year-old Busch unexpectedly after three seasons spent
in Chicago, where he tied career highs and the single-season franchise record
with 10 shutouts last season and in 2008, and served as one of the club’s
veteran leaders during three postseason appearances.

The Fire will open the season
at New York on Saturday as second-year goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra makes his MLS regular-season debut in place of Busch, who fought back tears when recounting his time in Chicago.

“I fell in
love with this place, and I loved playing in front of those guys in Section 8,”
Busch told MLSsoccer.com over the phone on Monday night. “I absolutely had no inkling that something like this was going to happen.
I had no idea that I wouldn’t be starting in New York the way I expected.”

Busch said that he met with Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos on Saturday morning
and was told he had been replaced in the starting lineup by Dykstra. According
to Busch, the new Fire coach praised Busch’s leadership and play during the
preseason, but was being replaced by Dykstra because “Andrew has potential.”

“He told me I was fantastic in preseason, but he said he was going to take a
chance with Andrew and he hoped I could support it,” Busch said. “I told him we
could get through New York, and then go from there. But was I disappointed?
Absolutely. But I just told him I would put my head down and work harder, and
that I would try and earn my spot back.”

Fire technical director Frank Klopas then met with Busch on Sunday and told him
that he would either be traded or waved outright.

“I simply
asked, ‘How we did go from me being on the bench in New York to not even being
on the team?’” Busch said. “All I was told was: ‘This is what Carlos wants.’”

Klopas did
not return calls seeking comment Monday night.

want to thank Jon for all his contributions to the club, both on and off the
pitch,” Klopas said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the very best
moving forward.”

Busch said
Klopas never mentioned the stipulation that
veteran salaries are now guaranteed under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, nor that the
decision to release him was a financial casualty of the new CBA agreed upon by the league and the Players Union on Saturday.

“There was
never any mention of a budget cut or a salary issue,” Busch said. “I don’t know
if we’ll ever get the answer, but now I have to find another team and move on.”

Busch joined the club as a backup to starter Matt Pickens in 2007, then emerged as the starter the next season when Pickens attempted a career in Europe. Busch enjoyed a career-high 30 starts and matched his career high with 10 shutouts on his way to winning the Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year and an MLS Bext XI selection.

Busch duplicated those stats again in 2009, topping even the numbers he put up during the only All-Star campaign of his career with Columbus in 2004. His five seasons with the Crew ended following the 2006 season and after two major knee surgeries, though he never faced injury problems as a starter in Chicago.

He signed a multi-year deal with the club prior to the 2009 season.

“At no time
did I see this coming,” Busch said. “If someone comes into preseason and kicks
my a-- around and he’s that much better than me, then he should be playing. But
during preseason I was playing well enough that I totally thought, 100 percent without
a doubt, that I would be ready to play on New York on Saturday night. I know
this had zero to do with how I was playing.”