The starting keeper for the Fire in the 2007 season was Matt Pickens, who left Chicago to play in Europe. The new starting goalie for the Fire is Jon Busch, but there will be competition for the starting keeper spot. Busch will be competing with Dominic Cervi of the University of Tulsa and Melford James Jr. out of Montevallo University, as well as Matt Noble, who was with the Fire last season. Come opening day the Fire will keep three keepers on the roster.
As of now Busch is the number 1 keeper and he is a 6-year veteran. He has spent most of his career with the Columbus Crew and has played in 87 MLS games, recording a record of 36-26-23. In those games Busch recorded 382 saves, allowed 109 goals, and had a solid average of 1.67 GAA. Busch was the number 1 keeper for Columbus for 2003 and 2004 before going down with an injury in 2005. Since then he has been battling to regain a spot as the number 1 keeper for an MLS Club. Busch said, “Last year was a big year for me health-wise. I didn’t miss a single day of training. I’m fully fit and ready to go.” Busch has the number one spot for now but he knows that could change any day saying, “We’ve got four good goalkeepers here. You can’t think you’re No. 1. When you’re comfortable, that’s when you get knocked off the top of the hill.”
Chicago Assistant coach and goalkeepers coach Daryl Shore said, “We brought Busch in last season to push Matt. We always felt like we had two No. 1 goalkeepers. We also have young guys pushing for that spot. It’s bittersweet, We’ll move on and be fine. Matt was a solid goalkeeper who would have had a bright future in Chicago. This is a business. It was great to see him grow for four years.”
Fire head coach Denis Hamlett stated, “We’re confident in Jon’s abilities. We’ve always had two No. 1 goalkeepers, where they challenge and push each other. Cervi did well at the combine and got an invite to the U-23’s. James is also a talented goalkeeper. They’ll all battle it out.”
Departing keeper Matt Pickens had a solid year in net last year for the Fire and was ready to return for the 2008 MLS season, but as he was in negotiations for a new contract he was given the opportunity to train with Norwich City in England. He played well and is expected to join the Queen’s Park Rangers soon. There were reports that Pickens was not getting decent offers from the Fire and having him back as the number keeper was not a high priority for Chicago. Pickens stated, “If I had no European options, I’d be back in a Fire uniform. I’d be a fool not to go to Europe when I have my chance. I don’t want to look back and wonder what if. I have the chance, and I have to take it.” In turns out the Fire did want Pickens to return, but after the offer came from England Pickens felt he had to take the opportunity.
So, while Busch is the number one keeper for now he will go into the season with a lot of pressure from both the young keepers looking to take his spot, as well as the fans in the Windy City, who are anxious to improve on last years impressive run to the Eastern Conference Finals.