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.
“We 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.”