BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When you have made as many offseason adjustments as the Chicago Fire have to their roster, there will be a fair share of praise and criticism along the way. The viewing public's opinion is a given, but the players' inner focus is tested, too.
Heading into the Fire's 2010 MLS opener this Saturday against the host New York Red Bulls, the team is moving in a different direction, with a new player taking hold of one of the most heavily scrutinized positions on the pitch. The Fire waived veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch on Monday, paving the way for Andrew Dykstra to take the helm for his first MLS match.
For longtime Fire defender C.J. Brown, who has played with every goalkeeper this organization has had in place, it certainly is a test to try to move past this decision, which caught many people off-guard.
"It's an unfortunate situation because he is our best goalkeeper," Fire defender C.J. Brown said of Busch. "And that's no disrespect to the two goalkeepers we have now. [Busch] has been here, he's shown his qualities, he's a great professional. He's everything you want in a goalkeeper, but for whatever reason they have made their decision."
The timing of the move, with the new collective bargaining agreement taking effect, naturally brought a slew of speculation surrounding the decision to waive Busch. Fire technical director Frank Klopas said this was not a cost-cutting move and simply said that it was a decision that needed the full preseason to make sure the best player in their eyes was manning the net.
"It was not an easy decision to make," Klopas said Tuesday. "Any decisions like that take time. You want to make the right one, and we feel we have and we're moving forward. We believe in Andrew and Sean [Johnson] and wish Jon nothing but the best."
Klopas did not want to talk about the one-on-one dialogue he and Busch had, deflecting the reference of Busch's willingness to accept a lesser role on the team's goalkeeper depth chart. Klopas felt comfortable about the decision to move Dykstra to No. 1 following a preseason match against the Houston Dynamo. Even though this decision was officially made public less than one week before the start of the season, Klopas did not think it was a late move.
"Why is it a late decision?" Klopas asked. "He played against Houston, didn't he? Two weeks ago he was the starting goalkeeper."
Klopas continues to wholeheartedly defend each and every move this Fire organization has made, and while Busch's departure is one of the more emotional ones he has had to make, Klopas appears to keep his soccer passion in check when it comes to personnel decisions.
"This was a decision that we felt was one based on moving forward, based on performance, one that we thought was better for the team," Klopas said.
Dykstra had a preseason that the coaching staff and the team's technical director felt were worthy of being No. 1. Tactically, they think this is the right move. The timing of the move definitely did not look from the public's perspective. From the players' standpoint, though, this merely reiterates the fact that they cannot get caught up in the emotional side of losing a proven veteran goalkeeper.
"More of it's mental right now," Brown said. "We'll see if it affects us in the game. If they're looking at Andrew being the first goalkeeper, he played well against Houston and hopefully he can build off of that. I have confidence in all of the goalkeepers that we have, and I think Sean and Andrew are good goalkeepers. If you asked [Busch], he would say the same thing, that they were moving in the right direction."
"When you talk about preparation, that doesn't change. But outside, maybe it's a different story because [Busch] was a really good friend and a part of this organization," Fire defensive midfielder Logan Pause said. "In terms of preparation, things are still moving. We as players put a lot of faith and confidence in each other, and that's from top to bottom."