Sporting Kansas City’s 2018 campaign delivered thrills from beginning to end, packing entertainment, emotion and drama on a weekly basis as Manager Peter Vermes’ side ascended to the top of the Western Conference table and brought the MLS Cup Playoffs back to Children’s Mercy Park.
In a year chalk full of stunning goals, wild wins and momentous developments off the pitch, assembling the top 12 moments of 2018 was no easy task. There simply hasn’t been a dull moment over the last 12 months, which is why this season will be fondly remembered well into the future.
Nevertheless, SportingKC.com has taken its best shot at counting down the dozen moments of 2018 that stood out above the rest. The countdown will run from Dec. 20-31, beginning with No. 12 on Dec. 20 and culminating with the No. 1 moment of 2018 on New Year’s Eve.
Very rarely do MLS clubs enter the hallowed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and live to tell the tale with fond recollection. Under the guidance of head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and bolstered by a star-studded squad featuring league MVP Josef Martinez and playmaker Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes wound up cruising to the 2018 MLS Cup title in just their second year of existence.
But Atlanta’s championship season didn’t come without a rare blip on home turf. That setback came at the hands of Sporting KC, who made an empathic statement on May 9 with a 2-0 shutout victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a matchup of the top two teams in the Supporters’ Shield standings at the time.
Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes bagged second-half goals, goalkeeper Tim Melia stood on his head throughout the night, and Sporting KC emerged with three well-deserved points against an Atlanta side that has averaged an absurd 2.7 goals per game at their palatial home venue dating back to 2017.
To this day, Atlanta has failed to score at Mercedes-Benz Stadium just once in its regular season history. It was an impressive feather in the cap for Melia, who finished with eight saves and left the 44,696 in attendance gasping in disbelief over the course of 90 minutes.
Atlanta dominated in the early stages—Melia was a busy man, indeed—but the game’s complexion changed drastically in the 34th minute when Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan was sent off for chopping Khiry Shelton to the turf on a breakaway. Salloi separated the sides with a 67th-minute stunner and Fernandes doubled the lead on a quick-fire counter attack to seal the result.
Melia was heroic in the dying embers of the match, producing near-identical saves to deny free kick specialist Kevin Kratz in the 83rd and 86th minutes before touching an Almiron curler onto the woodwork.