NEW YORK ( -- What a difference a year makes? After three disappointing seasons, Chicago Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch has capped off his unexpected and triumphant return to form in 2008 by being named Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year in MLS.

"It's exciting to win this award and a little bit of a shock," Busch said in a statement released by the team. "I have to give all the credit to the guys in front of me all season. They did a tremendous job and they deserve as much credit for this award as I do."

The Chicago defense has been strong all year, but Busch was the centerpiece and the mainstay, playing in all 2,700 minutes of the regular season.

It's a far cry from where the New York native was a year ago. In 2004, Busch was the starter with the Columbus Crew he had a career season. But 2005 and 2006 saw injuries limit his action. After being picked up on waivers by Chicago before the 2007 season, he spent a season behind then-starter Matt Pickens. Combined over those three seasons, the 32-year-old Busch played in just 20 games, averaging 1.25 goals against and posting just seven wins.

In 2008, though, Pickens moved to Europe, and Busch was handed the Fire's starting job. He made the most of his second opportunity. He started 30 games with a league-high 10 shutouts. He beat his personal best for wins with 13, and was second in the league for goals-against average with 1.10.

Busch beat out finalists Wil Hesmer of the Crew, and the New England Revolution's Matt Reis. He is the second Chicago goalkeeper to win the award after Zach Thornton received it in 1998, the year the Fire won their first and only MLS Cup.

The Fire take on New England in the second leg of their MLS playoff quarterfinal series on Thursday night at Toyota Park. The two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg last week at Gillette Stadium.

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