Different paths to goal

Johnson remains close to former teammate Busch

This is a soccer season that goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Jon Busch won't soon forget, and tonight they'll be in opposite nets when the Fire visits the San Jose Earthquakes.

As preseason training wound down, Johnson was just hoping to make the Fire roster and Busch was expecting to remain in goal for the club. After all, he had been a mainstay for the Fire, being named Major League Soccer's goalkeeper of the year in 2008 and the only Fire player to go 90 minutes of every game in 2009.

Then, less than a week before the MLS regular season began, some strange things happened. Frank Klopas, the Fire's technical director, abruptly released Busch and new coach Carlos de los Cobos declared Andrew Dykstra his starting goalie with Johnson, a rookie out of Central Florida, the backup.

An unhappy Busch hooked on with the Earthquakes as the backup to veteran Joe Cannon. At midseason things changed sharply again. Cannon suffered a broken ankle, meaning Busch was a starter again, and de los Cobos opted to replace Dykstra with Johnson.

Through it all Johnson, 21, and Busch, 34, have remained good friends.

''We chat all the time,'' Johnson said before the Fire departed on this seven-day road trip that concludes with a match against FC Dallas on Saturday. ''We have conversations about all sorts of stuff. It's good to have a guy available who's experienced and seen things in this league that I haven't. He's a great mentor.''

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