In a surprise trade, the Vancouver Whitecaps acquired longtime Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush this past Monday, trading a 2021 3rd round MLS Super Draft pick to acquire his services. Here is some of what Bush had to say when introduced to the media on Tuesday, as he’s excited to reunite with some old friends in Vancouver.
He may be in new colours now, but at least there are some familiar faces to help him feel welcome.
After spending nearly a decade in Montreal with the Montreal Impact, dating back to the time before the team was even in MLS, Evan Bush found a new home earlier this week, as it was announced that he was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Monday morning.
But despite moving teams for the first time in 10 seasons, he has a connection to Vancouver, namely through some of the people that are in charge, which just happen to be some of the people that welcomed him to Montreal back in 2011.
In charge of the Whitecaps now is Marc Dos Santos, who was the coach who actually brought Bush to the Impact, and working with Bush now is his old goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha, who was with the Impact up until 2017.
Caught at a bit of a crossroads now, having not played a single minute in 2020, the Impact had put feelers out on the market for Bush, whose accomplishments include winning the Golden Glove of the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League and leading all MLS goalkeepers in the Audi Rating index in 2018, among others.
That’s why when the chance to come to Vancouver materialized in recent days, Bush jumped at the opportunity, knowing that he’ll get a chance to work with two faces that have played a big role in building his career to date.
“Yeah, it was pretty quick,” Bush said of the negotiations between Montreal and Vancouver. “I figured that at some point the discussions would be had, be it during the season or after the season, based on a variety of factors, in Montreal, but like you said, it was a long time there. It was something that the club was respectful enough to give me an opportunity to be involved in the discussions.”
“I was presented with the opportunity on Friday night from our general manager, saying that Vancouver had expressed interest, and that Marc (Dos Santos) and Youssef (Dahha) had expressed interest, and were hoping to speak with me that night, so I spoke with them a little bit about what was going on here, and the decision wasn’t made at that point, obviously, with being in Montreal for so long, with my family being there, it was something that I couldn’t decide on my own in the matter of 13 minutes or a couple of hours.”
He continued: “So those discussions and the back and forth, and most importantly involving my wife in the conversation was the most important part for me, so it continued through Saturday, and on Sunday, we finally sorted it out and finalized it, and I think if it wasn’t for Marc and Youssef and my pre-existing relationship with those guys, it would’ve been a lot easier for me to stand pat and stay in a place that I was familiar with in Montreal, and to wait for the offseason to see what was going to happen, but I have so much respect for those guys that I had to hear them out, and listen to them, and I was excited to be able to reunite with them.”
Now, in Vancouver, Bush will look to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented to him.
In Montreal, he had become a clear #2 behind Clement Diop, but in Vancouver, he joins a team desperate for goalkeeping, with their #1, Maxime Crepeau, likely out for the rest of the year with a hand injury, while his replacement, Thomas Hasal, also appears to be out for the rest of 2020 with a concussion and tibia fracture.
That just left Vancouver with the experienced backup, the 31-year-old Bryan Meredith, and an 18-year-old academy signing, Isaac Boehmer, both of whom have combined for 13 MLS starts, all coming via Meredith.
Understandably wanting to protect Boehmer from having to get thrown into the fire if something were to happen to Meredith, Bush was brought in to reinforce their depth at the position for the rest of the season, giving him a chance to get some minutes back under his belt at the MLS level once again.
And the fact that he gets to do that under Dos Santos and Dahha, two people he owes a big part of his career to, is all bonus to Bush, who is just happy to get a fresh start, much less under the familiar tutelage of his former instructors.
“Yeah, that relationship was certainly a big part of why I was open to even hearing out the discussion, or the future agreement, for me I’ve always had a great level of respect for Marc,” Bush said. “Marc was my first coach in Montreal, he was the one who gave me the initial opportunity in Montreal, and every time I’ve seen him or crossed paths with him, had great admiration for him in the way that he basically started my career in Montreal. Before I was in Montreal, I had two years in the second division in pretty rough organizations in Cleveland and Baltimore, so I didn’t know what a professional environment was until I got to Montreal at that point, and Marc was a big reason why it was so professional, and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me.”
“And then the first person I met in Montreal was actually Youssef. I don’t know if you guys actually know Youssef personally a whole lot, but he’s quite the person, he’s a great guy, I’ve had an unbelievable relationship with him, for many, many years, and some of my best years as a pro were under his tutelage, so that was a big part in reconnecting with these guys and coming out here. Both of them have played an important role in my time, not only with them in Montreal, but in what I learned and carried on after that.”
And when hearing from Bush, it was quite interesting to hear how this whole situation played out.
While Vancouver’s interest came quite last-minute, as Bush alluded to, the Impact worked with the veteran goalkeeper before even considering a move, allowing him to decide his future.
In MLS, where trades can often be done without the consent of the player, as is the case in all North American leagues, Bush recognizes that he was quite fortunate that he was able to work out a deal with the Impact like he did.
Knowing that Bush was signed through 2021, Montreal didn’t appear to mind keeping him around for now, even though their goalkeeper of the future, James Pantemis, waits readily on the wings, but when the deal came up, they spoke about it with Bush, and found a solution that worked for all.
Montreal’s Sporting Director, Olivier Renard, who has a strong background in the European game, where players have more control in where they are transferred too, looked to do right by Bush, and to hear Bush talk about it, he’s very thankful for that.
As a big part of the MLSPA, he’s always been one to fight for the rights of fellow players, so he didn’t mince words when talking about the trading system, while also equally giving praise to Renard for how he handled things.
“Yeah, very much so, the North American model that we deal with, not only in this sport but across all sports in North America, it’s, to put it bluntly, it sucks, in many ways, it’s inhumane, in many ways,” Bush said. “And the guys in Montreal, Olivier (Renard) and (Assistant Sporting Director) Vassili (Cremanzidis), they understand what it’s like outside of North America, so they afforded me the respect to bring me in the discussion and involve me in it, and I think that’s important.”
“I told them in the end that I think this is the way that all of the clubs should go forward with any type of transaction in MLS, they don’t have to do that, obviously, with the way that the league is made up, but I think it just makes everyone feel better about the situations that they’re going into, what kind of control they have over their own lives, and all of those things. As you can probably tell over the last couple of days, it’s been emotional, it was a situation that was hard for me to finally make a decision on, but at the end of the day, it’s something that I can look back on and say it was my decision.”
So now, it’s intriguing to see what version of Bush shows up to Vancouver.
Obviously, from hearing from those connected with the Impact, as well as Bush himself, it’s clear that Vancouver got a great human, but at the same time, they do want to win soccer games.
As we saw last year, Bush did not have a good 2019 season for the Impact, ultimately leading to his eventual demotion, despite being a longtime starter in Montreal.
Was that just an anomaly? It’s very possible that it could be, but at his age (34), and considering that his last minutes came over a year ago, you do have to wonder.
At the same time, he is going to get a chance to work under Dahha, who has been credited for the work he’s done in helping Crepeau, someone who Bush is actually great friends with from the parts of 6+ seasons they spent together in Montreal, with Crepeau blossoming into one of the best goalkeepers in MLS last season under Dahha’s tutelage.
Knowing that if he plays well, he’ll be auditioning for a spot on a team in 2021, be it in Vancouver, or elsewhere, look for him to try and build off of a very rough 2019 campaign for him in this minimum of 9 games that he’ll get with the ‘Caps to finish the year.
And at the very least, even if he struggles to recapture his form from 2018 and before, he’ll be a great leader in the locker room, helping mentor this young Whitecaps side, which we do have to remember is one of the youngest in MLS.
“I never really pushed the issue, I tried to stay as professional as possible,” Bush said of trying to be a leader despite the trade rumours and not playing. “Thierry (Henry) made me one of the captains at the start of the year, and looked upon me to maintain that role, and I spoke with him a couple of times since the move happened, and he mentioned that I never stepped out of line in terms of being a professional or a leader, and to me that’s what matters the most, I showed up to training the right way every day and tried to be a leader for the group, through good and bad, and I never wanted to make it about me.”
“Even until the last day, in New York, I didn’t want to address the team before the game, I waited until after the game to make sure it was about the group, and not about me, and I’ll continue that.”