Jon Busch: Former MLS All-Star Goalie on Life in Carmel After Pro Soccer
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For all of you soccer fans out there, I caught up with Carmel resident and former Major League Soccer (MLS) veteran and All-American collegiate goalkeeper Jon Busch to talk about his 21-year career as a pro and why he and his wife, Nicole, decided to settle down in Carmel after his retirement from professional soccer. Busch was an MLS All-Star and also named as the 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Busch has grown his businesses here in the city and coaches both youth and adult goalkeepers. It’s worth noting that Busch recently was inducted into the University of North Carolina at the Charlotte 49ers inaugural athletics Hall of Fame class, which commemorated the school’s 50th anniversary as a Division I program.
Busch was the program’s second player to earn All-American recognition and led the 49ers to the NCAA soccer finals in 1996 before embarking on his minor and major league career.
Realizing His Passion Early On in Life
Busch was born in Queens, New York. His family moved to Virginia when Busch was about 10, and he began to realize his passion for soccer.
“I have an older brother, Mathew, who was striker [forward], and we built a goal in our backyard and he put me in it and started taking shots at me,” Busch shared. “For some crazy reason, I enjoyed it. There really weren’t goalie coaches like there are today, so the little bit of coaching I would get was from my brother’s buddy, Joey, who was a goalie for the high school team. He would come to my practices now and again and would teach me a little bit about goalkeeping.”
Busch continued, “I played in the field and as goalkeeper until about age 14 to 15, and then I realized two things right about then: One, I was halfway decent at this goalkeeping thing and wanted to focus more on that, and two, I learned that I really don’t like running. I figured the ball’s eventually coming to the goalie so I’m the smarter person. Now, whether or not I could save it is a whole different story.”
Busch’s family moved to Pennsylvania during his middle school years and then back to New York to Albany where he finished high school.
“When I was in high school, I played for youth national teams,” Busch said. “I was very fortunate that I played for two straight years with the U-17 national team. We went to the FIFA U-17 World Championship in 1993 in Japan. That was pretty cool. From there, I went to the U-20 national team.”
After high school, Busch went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) on a full-ride scholarship.
Pursuing a Dream to Go Pro
Busch worked with UNCC goalkeeper coach Eric Vaughter—an icon in the nation’s soccer world.
“I was very fortunate to work with ‘E.V.’ [Eric Vaughter],” Busch expressed. “He is like my second father, and we still talk pretty much every day. A lot of pros would come down to UNCC to train with him. I remember after my freshman season, there were like seven professional goalkeepers that started showing up and training with us.”
Busch’s relationship with Vaughter and his commitment to improving his game eventually led him to his dream job—goalkeeper on an MLS team.
“I played close to 150 professional minor league games before I got drafted by the Columbus Crew [Ohio] in 2002,” Busch said. “I was there for five years total before I got traded to Chicago Fire. What was cool about Columbus was they had the first soccer-specific stadium in the MLS. And even though I was disappointed at first to be traded, I had three fantastic years in Chicago, and we had a fantastic team at that point.”
Busch played a total of 21 years of professional soccer—14 of them in the MLS. By the end of his career as a top-performing keeper, Busch had played for the Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes and the Indy Eleven.
“My last two years I played here for the Indy Eleven,” Busch stated. “I knew coming towards the end of my career that I wanted to start learning the coaching and administrative side of the game. The Indy Eleven coach at the time asked if I’d be interested in coming over [to Indy] as a player/assistant coach. I jumped at the chance and played for two years while learning the responsibilities as goalie coach and second assistant coach.”
Setting Down Roots in Carmel
At this point in Busch’s career, he and his wife had decided it was time to set down some roots and call Carmel their home.
“My wife and I love the Midwest,” Busch emphasized. “She had been building her personal stylist/branding specialist business here, and we think that Carmel is very affordable and comfortable. The pace of life is great here.”
Knowing that he’d always wanted to be a goalkeeper coach, Busch has been focused on developing goalkeepers at both the youth and adult levels.
“When I first moved here, I did a little part-time work for the Indy [Indiana] Fire club,” Busch explained. “I want to give back everything that was given to me from different goalkeeper coaches. It is my turn to give back.”
Busch serves as goalkeeper coach for the Indiana Fire professional team and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis men’s and women’s programs. He also established High Performance Goalkeeping, which makes goalkeeper gloves that Busch designs and sells to youth and adult goalkeepers at an affordable price. His company offers discounts to the local area youth clubs to help parents with the cost of the gloves. Busch also established his High Performance Goalkeeping with Jon Busch—a coaching academy where he offers private lessons and group sessions.