Earthquakes' goalie fined for obscene gesture

By Elliott Almond

San Jose Mercury News

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 10:53 a.m. MDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jon Busch wanted it to go away. But Major League Soccer's disciplinary committee wouldn't let that happen Friday, fining him $500 for his obscene gesture last weekend during a match against Real Salt Lake.

The Earthquakes' goalkeeper regrets his reaction after Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio dived 10 yards in front of him, leading to a botched call and an unraveling by San Jose in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat. Busch raised his middle finger after teammate Bobby Burling was given a red card for supposedly fouling Saborio in the penalty box.

"It was for Saborio, plain and simple, for cheating," Busch said this week. "Was it right? No. It was one of those situations where you get heated, you get frustrated."

To add to the Quakes' dismay, referee David Ganther, in his seventh MLS match, first signaled midfielder Brad Ring with the infraction that led to a penalty kick and Salt Lake's first goal.

"It's comical, really, to get it that wrong," San Jose coach Frank Yallop said.

League officials acknowledged the blunder Friday by suspending Saborio one game and fining him $1,000. But that won't help San Jose, which must face D.C. United on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium without Burling.

Yallop now has to devise a new lineup with a wafer-thin roster. Ring also is suspended after getting his league-maximum fifth yellow card last weekend. Center back Jason Hernandez (calf strain) and forward Steven Lenhart (personal) are unavailable while attacking midfielder Simon Dawkins (hamstring strain) is questionable.

Chris Leitch probably will replace Burling at center back as recently acquired Nana Attakora isn't ready to play a full match. It doesn't matter to Busch who's in front of him.

"The biggest thing is we have to find ways" to win, he said. "It's now coming down to the players. I know Frank and his staff are taking a lot of heat. It's not them."

The 5-foot-8 Busch is an undersized keeper with an oversized heart who has kept the Earthquakes afloat this season with an MLS-second best 80 saves.

"I'm doing my job," said Busch, the 2008 goalkeeper of the year. "Not doing anything special. But I'd rather have the action than sit there and count the people in the stands."

The 10-year veteran came to San Jose just before the start of the 2010 season when Chicago suddenly released him because of budget constraints.

It wasn't easy to join a team with the popular Joe Cannon as the starter. But Busch never complained about being a backup and eventually took over when Cannon suffered a season-ending ankle injury in August.

Since then it has been Busch's team. Cannon, a South Bay native, went to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the expansion draft while Busch found a new home.

Busch never doubted his ascent in San Jose. He was used to being overlooked because of his lack of height, saying "Nobody gives me a lot of credit."

But as long as general manager John Doyle and goalkeeper coach Jason Batty and Yallop "think I'm playing well, I'm good."

And he has been good for a team of diligent, hard-working guys. The son of a Lutheran pastor from Albany, N.Y., has brought a splash of color to the locker room with his wisecracking nature.

To wit:

"The day you see me surfing, slap me," Busch said of living the California dream. "I'm learning to be the laid back, 'let's go dude.' "

Well, not really. He's too intense about soccer to ever relax on the field. Though Busch has secured his place in San Jose he is motivated by outside perceptions, perhaps because so many doubted him when he began as an undrafted keeper out of North Carolina-Charlotte.

"Once you say you've arrived, you quit pushing and you get comfortable," Busch said. "I don't want to get comfortable. I want to get in the national team camp. I want a shot at that."

He played in only one game with the U.S. national team in 2009 and is behind a long list of great American keepers, starting with Tim Howard. Busch knows it's an unrealistic goal, but it's just another way to remain motivated.

"The day I retire is the day I'll say I made it," he said.

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