BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. –- Jon Busch is not going to rest on his laurels after reaching the rare milestone of 300 appearances in MLS in last week’s 2-2 tie at former club Columbus Crew SC.
The Chicago Fire’s 38-year-old goalkeeper joined an exclusive club of just three other ’keepers to break the 300 appearance threshold: Kevin Hartman (416), Nick Rimando (381) and Joe Cannon (342).
“It’s over with, it’s done,” Busch told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday when asked to reflect on his latest achievement. “It’s a big accomplishment, I enjoyed it that night and got a lot of text messages from different goalkeepers that I played with or played against throughout the years, and nice words, but it’s over with. It’s done and we move on and now we’re looking for the next game.”
Busch rejoined the Fire (3-5-2, 11 points) this offseason after five successful seasons at the San Jose Earthquakes. Despite being a two-time MLS saves leader, he was aware that his primary role would be to serve as deputy to first choice goalkeeper and USMNT squad member Sean Johnson. However, with Johnson sidelined through a variety of minor injuries, Busch has started three of the Fire’s 10 games thus far and stepped into the breach with typical reliability and conviction.
“I’m happy with what I’ve brought to the team,” said Busch, who began his MLS career at Crew SC in 2002 and played with the Fire from 2007-2009. “Obviously knowing Frank [Yallop, Chicago Fire head coach] for a handful of years from San Jose and knowing the situation when I came here that Sean was No. 1, I just wanted to work hard and help the team in the locker room and if I needed to play, I played.
“Sean and I have a very good relationship, we both work hard and whoever Frank picks we support the other guy. Frank’s the boss, he’s got the hard decision, I just prepare myself to play and if he picks me, great, and if he picks Sean I support Sean 100 percent.”
Yallop, who was a player at the Tampa Bay Mutiny when Busch was starting out in his career as a teenager, never had any doubts about his quality, and admitted he jumped at the chance to work with the veteran again when Busch's contract with San Jose expired.
“I’ve worked with Jon a long time, even going back to my Tampa days when I played, Jon was coming into training and that’s when I got to know him first,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “I loved his demeanor and his work ethic, I think he was 17 or 18 when he used to come in, but would get there on his own dime and train with us, which was fantastic.”
Yallop added that it was a “no-brainer” when the possibility to reunite with Busch arose again.
“Obviously I saw him play for Columbus, Chicago, and when I had a chance to get him at San Jose it was a no-brainer,” he added. “It was fantastic for me and it was the same thing here: I knew exactly what I was going to get, you can trust Jon in goal, and no matter the role he has he’s going to give 100 percent and he’s done that every game he’s played for me so far here, and he’s done it throughout his whole career. He always gives everything he’s got, he trains like a demon and is ready to go any time.”
Busch’s desire to succeed remains as strong as ever, and he made no qualms about expressing that: “Our job here is to win games.”
“One of the things I talked with Frank about coming back was getting this team back to where it was when I played here the first time,” Busch, who was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year while with the Fire in 2008, said. “That’s the only important thing to me, getting this club back to getting in Conference finals and winning trophies, because I love this club and I’ll do whatever it takes, whether I play or sit on the bench.”
Yallop sees the healthy competition fostered by the respective ambitions of Busch and Johnson as a positive for the Fire.
“There’s nothing wrong with competition and we have two really good goalkeepers,” Yallop said. “Yes, Sean is the guy that I want to make sure he gets the development he needs to be a really good goalkeeper, but Jon is very competitive and wants to play whenever he gets the chance to, and he’s done that. It’s a good situation and you don’t drop a beat when Jon plays.”
As for the future, as long as his body cooperates, thoughts of hanging up his gloves continue to remain in the distance.
“I feel great and if you look at what I did last year and the consistency I put up the last few years, I think I’ve played 150 games in the last five years, so the body feels great, no issues there,” he said.
“My mind is good, I still want to play, I still come in every day and try to get better even at the age of 38 and for me that’s one of the major things. Obviously, the other thing is the spring in my legs, once that’s gone I’m definitely done, but it’s also the mental ability to want to do it. I still love coming in every day and training hard and trying to get better as a goalkeeper and I think when that goes, when you become complacent, then you’re done, you might as well retire.”
Shane Murray covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.