Saturday’s game between the Columbus Crew and CF Montreal at Lower.com Field is another must-win for the Black & Gold. Across the roster, there are certain players that are must starts for must-win games. One of those is goalkeeper Eloy Room.
The Curaçao international has been one of the best Columbus players in 2021 and had his most heroic performance last Saturday in a 1-1 draw on the road against the league-leading New England Revolution. While hopping on one leg in the last minutes from an injury, Room made two remarkable saves consecutively to hold on to a point.
Unfortunately, the injury Room sustained last week will be enough to keep him out for this Saturday’s contest against Montreal. It’s another key starter the Black & Gold will be without. But stepping into his spot will be MLS veteran Evan Bush.
The 35-year old from Concord Township, Ohio came to Columbus after spending more than a decade playing in Canada to be a backup keeper for his hometown team.
“You always want experience if you can in the No. 2, especially in goal because you don’t want to put a young, shaky guy in goal,” said head coach Caleb Porter this week. “Similar to (Andrew) Tarbell, we knew he could step in because it’s such a high-pressure position. You can have a great game with one mistake and it costs you a goal.”
Last season, the Crew experienced a situation where Room was unable to play in a must-win situation. The goalkeeper missed two games in the MLS Cup playoffs due to health and safety protocols and in stepped Tarbell, an MLS veteran who seamlessly stepped in goal for the Black & Gold and kept two clean sheets to get Columbus to the MLS Cup Final.
In 2021, Bush will be called upon to do the exact same thing.
This season, Bush has played just two matches with a clean sheet in June against the Chicago Fire and a 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati in July. It’s been nearly three months since Bush played a game but he is ready for this moment.
“He is one of the best pros I have ever seen,” said Porter. “He has prepared all season long every single day and not really gotten much reward for that. I’ve never seen a drop off in his performance. He’s always one of the first guys in the building. He is always in the gym. He trains hard in training. Mentality, he stays ready. He hasn’t once complained or pouted. I firmly believe that good things happen to good people and it’s not by accidents.”
On Saturday, Bush will return to goal for Columbus with Room out to play against his former club.
“The universe works in funny ways sometimes,” said Bush. “It’s exciting.”
Bush spent the bulk of his MLS career in Quebec with the then-named Montreal Impact. The goalkeeper played 176 times for Montreal and kept 40 clean sheets. He knows a little of what to expect against his former club.
“You have some ideas that you can talk to your center backs about,” said Bush. “Outside backs as well. At the same time, those guys know my tendencies too. You take a little bit of everything you know without getting caught cheating in different moments. You gotta trust your instincts.”
The motto of this Crew team in 2021 could be “next man up.” Injuries have ravaged this roster in every position all season. Columbus is used to dealing with these injuries and isn’t going to let that stop the team from reaching the MLS Cup playoffs.
With Room out, Bush will be key in making sure that is the case.