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.
The Countdown: #12: Winning in Atlanta
Like so many other young, aspiring soccer fanatics throughout the region, Kalen Ricketson dreamed of playing for Sporting KC in front of a sold-out crowd at Children’s Mercy Park. For the longest time, though, he never thought the dream would actually become a reality.
That’s precisely what made Sept. 30 such a special occasion for the 18-year-old Ricketson, a Stillwater, Oklahoma, native who has battled osteosarcoma for more than three years. On the same afternoon that Sporting KC battled rivals Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park, The Victory Project granted Ricketson his wish of becoming a Sporting KC player for a day.
Ricketson’s experience as a Sporting KC star consisted of numerous heartwarming highlights, including the following:
- Participation in pre-game warm-ups with players
- Joining Sporting KC players in the locker room before the game
- Participation in the pre-game walkout for player introductions
- Leading the "I Believe" chant at midfield before kickoff
- Sitting on the Sporting KC bench throughout the game
- Participation in post-game interviews on the field
Ricketson has battled bone cancer since being diagnosed in December 2015, when he underwent his first of several surgeries over the last three years. Click here to learn more about Ricketson's remarkable story, and visit KCStar.com for Sam McDowell's feature story on the teenager's experience of a lifetime at Children's Mercy Park.
“It was amazing,” Ricketson said of his experience after the match, which resulted in a 1-1 draw. “Just walking out and hearing the crowd – the chants, the cheers, everything. It was an amazing experience with the passion that is here and the care for the fans. Just warming up with the players and being around them, it’s just been incredible for me.”
In addition to offering a source of inspiration to the Sporting KC community, Ricketson gave the players a first-hand example of resilience and positivity in the face of adversity.
“Hopefully he got a lot out of it, because I know that we did,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “Puts things into perspective. He showed up and he had a smile on his face the entire time.”