MONTREAL – Shortly after kickoff Sunday, goalkeeper Evan Bush came up with his first of several superhero moments for the Montreal Impact in their 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls at Stade Saputo in the first leg of their 2016 Audi MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Faced with an incredible scoring opportunity for Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips in the third minute, Bush raced right to the front edge of the 18-yard box and leaped with his arms straight over his head to haul down the ball when the MLS scoring leader attempted to chip it over him.
In preparing for the game, Bush had reviewed a goal that Wright-Phillips recently scored against Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake when a similar opportunity presented itself.
"I actually watched it last night and this morning," Bush said. "I was watching some film and he had a goal against Philadelphia where it was pretty similar. It got played in between the two center backs, it was a bouncing ball, he kind of got a touch over Andre Blake and he followed it up and just tapped it in. So when it came through I was in a position where I either had to stay on my line and let him take the ball down, or come make him commit to a play.
"And the first thought was that play that he did a couple of weeks ago, so when he tried to chip it over my head, I was ready for it and fortunately I was there. The good part is I didn't handle it outside of the box after because it was pretty close, so I made the decision just to kick it out."
Montreal coach Mauro Biello has often noted that big moments are for big players, and he sees Bush establishing himself on the big stage.
"We're in the MLS, we're in the playoffs, semifinals, and everybody's watching," Biello said. "And when you come up big against a good team, people start to talk and his stock starts to grow."
On his way to helping the Impact secure a crucial clean sheet at home, Bush sprawled to the ground to turn away Sacha Kljestan's attempt to finish off a glorious Red Bulls scoring opportunity in the 67th minute, not long after Montreal striker Matteo Mancosu scored his third goal in two playoff games.
"For goalkeepers, it's tough because your margin of error is very small,'' Biello said. "And if they're able to do their job and then make that key save in that key moment. You know, that's what distinguishes the good keepers from the top keepers, is to be able to make that big save in that big moment. And Evan continues to make those big saves and he's a big part of the success of this team."
Bush saved his best save for last, stopping Omer Damari before scrambling to his left and teaming up with left back Ambroise Oyongo to desperately defend the rebound, which went to Wright-Phillips, whose drive deep into injury time soared wide of the right post.
"Yeah, I was just really happy that we got past the second part of it," Bush said. "You know, the first part, the save off Damari, the initial one, you know, that's what I'm there for. But to not give up that rebound and into the back of the net was huge."
Impact captain Patrice Bernier credits Bush for stepping up at such a crucial point.
"He had a good season but the last few games he's picked it up," Bernier said. "He's made big saves and kept us in games, and it's a confidence boost for the rest of the team because you have some sort of security when you know a guy's going in on a breakaway or there's a chance that your goalie is going too pull out that big save, and he's done it. And I'm happy for him because he's growing as a goalie and you want to see some of your leaders, some of your key players perform at the right time, and he did it (Sunday)."