SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- To say Nikki Busch is not a fan of her husband’s preference for an eighth-of-an-inch haircut is to engage in understatement.
Nevertheless, San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch felt that he’d just have to run that risk this week.
“I told her, ‘I know you hate it when I buzz my head, but I’ve been buzzing my head for 15 years now,’” a Busch explained. “It’s time to get back to business.”
A freshly shorn Busch had no problem taking care of that on Saturday, stepping back into the Quakes’ starting lineup and providing seven saves – including a couple of diving stops on U.S. national team star Landon Donovan – in San Jose’s 1-0 victory against league-leading Los Angeles.
While it’s true Busch only regained the job because Joe Cannon broke his ankle Tuesday in training, Busch made sure the Quakes didn’t miss a beat in dispatching their arch rivals before a franchise-record crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium of 10,799.
“Give him credit, he did a good job,” Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena said. “I might say he was the player of the match for them.”
Plenty in that capacity crowd would agree – something they wouldn’t have guessed a week earlier, when Cannon made his triumphant return to the lineup and helped deliver a 1-0 win against Kansas City.
Before the benching, Busch had been troubled by long shots and late movement from the infamous Jabulani ball, culminating in a game-dropping own goal against Colorado two weeks ago. On that play, Omar Cummings’ long cross from the right wing “moved 2 feet to the left over the last 2 feet,” in Busch’s description, and he couldn’t shift his momentum, which was taking him the other direction.
Busch talked with Quakes goalkeeping coach Jason Batty about how to attack such plays differently, but came to the conclusion that failing to jump early on crosses – a Busch specialty – would actually confuse defenders used to his style and leave too many options open for opportunistic forwards to cash in.
“You can’t change who you are,” Busch said. “You can’t change the kind of goalkeeper you are.”
On Saturday, Busch was the kind of goalkeeper armed with quick reflexes, all the better to back up a Quakes team that gift-wrapped three chances for LA through crucial turnovers in dangerous areas.
“I think, honestly, if you look at the last six or seven weeks, the way I played, I knew that I was in the zone and playing well, even with the mistake up in Colorado,” Busch said. “Those kind of things happen to every goalkeeper. It’s about not letting it get you down.”
Instead, he got himself down, dropping to the floor to block Donovan in a one-on-one breakaway in the 37th minute, and then doing the same after Donovan ripped a volley from 16 yards out in the 74th. [inline_node:316607]
For Busch, the second shot – a blistered attempt that Donovan took on the full run off a soft dish from Sean Franklin – was the more impressive of the two, because he held the ball and allowed no rebound [WATCH the save]. Donovan scored the game-tying goal against Busch in the 90th minute last month in Los Angeles after Busch couldn’t quite corral Tristan Bowen’s initial attempt from distance, and he didn’t want to see history repeating.
“That one save on Donovan, if that’s not Save of the Week, there must be some amazing save,” said Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who scored the game-winning goal.
Busch said he didn’t give much thought to the fact that it was America’s hero bearing down on him in both cases. Or give much thought about anything, for that matter.
“For me, if I overthink, I kill myself,” Busch said. “I try to react. In the live run of play, the biggest thing for me is to make sure my feet are set and react for every ball.”
With Cannon expected to miss a minimum of six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery, Busch is the Quakes’ lone remaining No. 1.
And Nikki might have to get used to a little bit of hairstyling disappointment.
“She hated it,” Busch said. “But I think she’s going to love it when I get out of the locker room now.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com . On Twitter: @sjquakes