From outhouse to penthouse for Busch, Hartman
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
San Jose's Jon Busch and his FC Dallas counterpart Kevin Hartman are two of the most competitive goalkeepers in Major League Soccer.
So imagine what was running through their heads just prior to the 2010 season when their former clubs Chicago and Kansas City, respectively, dumped them in favor of younger and/or cheaper alternatives.
"You have two experienced, established veterans who have been there and done that and both kind of sent on their way, if you will," Busch told The Sports Network.
Despite playing every game for their former clubs over the previous two seasons, the 34-year-old Busch and the 36-year-old Hartman were forced to accept backup jobs with new teams with no real guarantees of earning starting roles just days before the season began.
"Being the competitors they are, I'm sure they were both like, "I'm gonna prove this person wrong and I'm gonna finish my career on a high," Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman told The Sports Network.
That competitive drive has made both players integral reasons for their new teams' recent advancements to their respective conference finals this weekend, with Busch and the San Jose Earthquakes traveling to Colorado, and Hartman and FC Dallas traveling to Los Angeles.
"Both have been outstanding this year and I think it speaks a lot to their personal character and the support that they have from their families. It's not easy to pick up your whole family and move into a city you haven't been to before and start fresh again without knowing if you are even going to get on the field because you are walking into a team that already has a goalkeeper, a [Joe] Cannon [in San Jose] or a Dario Sala [in Dallas] for example."
Busch and Hartman also had the support of each other during the trying days at the beginning of the season when they were either searching for work or minutes with their new clubs.
"It's interesting because Kevin and I are pretty good friends and I talked with him during that whole time period," Busch said.
"We have always been in contact with one another and we've always had a mutual respect for one another's game," Hartman told The Sports Network. "He was supportive of me in terms of saying, 'hey, something is probably going to work out.' And when he was in San Jose I was saying, 'just do the things that you do and if you work hard and are honest with yourself things normally tend to work out.'
"I think his work ethic is one of the reasons that he has been quality for so long. He's willing to put in the work on a day-to-day basis and I respect that because that's very similar to how I am in the time and effort and I put into my training," Hartman added.
"It's interesting because Kevin and I are pretty good friends and I talked with him during that whole time period," Jon Busch said.
Both sat and waited patiently for a chance before seizing the opportunity with hard work and the determination that makes them two of the most respected veterans in the league at their position.
"I think it speaks volumes for how hard Kevin worked to say, 'I'm going to give myself every opportunity to be the No. 1 goalkeeper here without doing anything negative," Hyndman said. "I'm sure Busch is the same way, and that shows tremendous maturity and leadership qualities."
Busch had to wait 11 games for his chance. Then he started all but one of his team's remaining games because of his strong play and an injury to Joe Cannon. He went 7-6-5 during the stretch while compiling seven shutouts and a 1.06 goals-against average.
Making nine saves in the two games, Busch was also huge in his team's upset of the New York Red Bulls in its opening round series.
"I came here as the backup, and they gave me the opportunity, and I got on a good run in the middle of the season," Busch said. "Then, unfortunately, Joe gets a tough injury. Then it was kind of mine after that, and here we are."
Where is here? Busch is preparing for the Eastern Final vs. the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
In Hartman's case, Dallas was winless in its first five contests, and he took over the starting position for the next 19 games. Hartman went 10-1-8 with a league-best .620 goals-against average in that stretch before suffering a knee injury on Sept. 16 vs. New York that forced him to miss the final six games of the regular season.
Hartman started both home-and-home, total-goals series playoff games vs. defending league champions Real Salt Lake and was sensational in leading his team to the Western Final on Sunday at The Home Depot Center vs. the Galaxy.
"His games against Real Salt Lake were huge difference makers," Hyndman said of Hartman. "We were winning 2-1 in game one and they are throwing everything at us and Kevin was coming up with key saves. And in game two with a one-goal lead he withstood the pressure while making tremendous saves. He was the man- of-the-match in my opinion."
And where are Busch's and Hartman's former teams these days?
After disappointing seasons for each club, the Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wizards did not qualify for the playoffs.
"I would imagine that [Chicago] will look back on the decision [to let Busch go] in the offseason and wonder if it was the correct one," Hartman said.
"What happened in the past is in the past," Busch said. "We are here and we are in the conference finals and that's all I'm concerned about. What the Fire did was their decision. I'm happy to be part of San Jose and we are looking forward, we're not looking back. All I'm concerned about is figuring out a way to get a win on Saturday night."
Spoken like a veteran leader who has been there and done that.
"I certainly feel like when I look around my team and look at guys that I consider leaders, they are usually the most competitive guys that have found a way to get what they need out of payers around them," Hartman said. "I have always considered Jon as that type of character."
Takes one to know one Kevin.