SAN JOSE, Calif. – Even the best goalkeepers in the world have a bad game now and then. The fact that Jon Busch had so few of them while backstopping the San Jose Earthquakes in 2011 is what made his performance last Saturday against the Houston Dynamo so surprising.
Busch saw things go horribly awry in the 14th minute, trapped in no-man’s land and unable to reach a bounding through ball before colliding with Houston forward Brian Ching for what was judged a penalty. Brad Davis knocked home the ensuing PK, which proved to be the only goal in Houston’s 1-0 victory against San Jose at AT&T Park.
PENALTY: Busch takes out Ching in box
For the man who made a league-best 113 saves last season, it was a disappointing outcome after helping the Quakes post a clean sheet in their season-opening win against New England.
“Looking back at it, if I don’t hesitate, I can probably beat him to it and box it, but once I do [hesitate], and then I start again, I put myself in a very bad spot,” Busch said. “There’s not a huge amount of contact, but there’s contact. So the referee gets it right and that’s on me. ...I’ll take full responsibility for that.”
Busch was also caught off his line in the 61st minute, when he came out to grab what originally seemed a somewhat innocuous cross from Dynamo left back Jermaine Taylor. The wind knocked the pass down short of its original destination, allowing Ching to chest the ball down for Will Bruin. Busch was able to make a deft kick save to neutralize Bruin’s shot from just outside the penalty area.
“You think it’s going to be an easy play, and then all of a sudden you have to readjust because it gets stuck in the wind and starts dropping,” Busch said. “At that point, as I said to [San Jose goalkeeper coach Jason] Batty, I’m just like, ‘Well, I’m going to go this way and try to get a box on it.’ If a cross is that deep, and I read it that deep originally, no, I’m not going to come that high, obviously.”
Part of the reason Busch – who enjoys a well-honed ability to wait out opponents and make last-second reflex saves – was willing to venture far afield is that it was in San Jose’s game plan all along, as the Quakes tried to combat Houston’s height and aerial attack.
“I wanted to be aggressive because they are so good in the air,” Busch said. “We knew that was part of the business and what they bring to the table.”
One subpar game is hardly going to put Busch on thin ice with coach Frank Yallop, who professed full confidence in the 35-year-old, who signed a contract extension with the club this winter.
“Did they work out as great decisions? Looking at them again, probably not,” Yallop said of Busch’s penalty and near-goal experience. “But Jon’s been terrific for us. He’ll play well for us on the weekend and we’ll move forward.”
Busch’s first shot at redemption comes Saturday in Toronto (1 pm ET; TSN, MLS Live in US). He’s got 32 more games to make up for the tie he feels the Quakes lost on his account against Houston.
“I told the boys I owe them a point, and it’s a long season,” Busch said.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org