MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The San Jose Earthquakes are undeniably pleased with the work they got from goalkeeper Jon Busch last weekend. Still, they’d desperately like to give him a night off when the Quakes face the New York Red Bulls on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Without Busch making a couple of critical stops in the first dozen minutes of San Jose’s Eastern Conference semifinal first leg on Saturday, New York would be holding a three- or four-goal lead heading into the second half of their series.
“They were incredible [saves],” Red Bulls rookie Tim Ream said of Busch’s work. “The diving stop on Joel [Lindpere, in the 11th minute], the point-blank header from Mehdi [Ballouchy, in the fifth minute], he single-handedly kept them in that game. OK, [Jason] Hernandez blocked that one off the line, but that doesn’t matter if Busch doesn’t save those two or three before that. He kept them in the game and he’s giving them a shot.”
It was one of Busch’s greatest performances of the year, made all the more important by the stage where it took place.
“This was right up there,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski said. “That one LA Galaxy game, at home [in August], where he was just pulling things out all game, that’s still No. 1 for me. That was amazing. But this one might be a very close second.”
Busch put together a 1.06 goals-against average in 18 starts this year for San Jose, who picked him up after the Chicago Fire released him to make room for Andrew Dykstra. Busch took over as the undisputed No. 1 after Joe Cannon broke his ankle in August.
“It’s part of my job,” Busch said. “No matter if it’s playoff time or regular season, my job is to make saves and keep the team in the game, every game. I was fortunate enough to keep it at one the other night. It gives us a good fighting chance in New York.”
Busch is one of the Quakes with the most MLS playoff experience. He took the Fire to the Eastern Conference finals in each of the last two seasons. If San Jose can match that performance, it’s likely a large share of the credit will go to Busch.
“Jon doesn’t panic,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “No matter what happens, he’s ready to make the saves that he should make. And I think that’s a good trait in a goalie. He doesn’t guess, he doesn’t think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to win the game from my position.’ He stands up, he observes the person he’s playing against. Then he makes the right decision and he makes the save.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes
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