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.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you never leave Children’s Mercy Park before the full-time whistle.
Sporting KC staged a stunning rally on June 23 to knock off rivals Houston Dynamo in a 3-2 thriller at Children's Mercy Park, moving three points clear at the top of the Western Conference at the time.
The likelihood of such a result looked decisively slim through 45 minutes, as a first-half brace from Mauro Manotas had given the Dynamo a deserved 2-0 advantage. But oh, how the script was flipped in the second stanza.
Manager Peter Vermes' dressing room remarks at halftime — presumptuously delivered in fervent fashion — got the attention of his players, who looked like an entirely different team after the restart. Sporting KC received a lifeline courtesy of Daniel Salloi’s 59th-minute tally before substitutes Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton struck in the final five minutes to give Sporting KC all three points in an unforgettable battle between bitter rivals.
The instant classic marked the sixth time in Sporting KC history that the club has come from two goals down to win an MLS match in regulation, and just the second time during the Children's Mercy Park era.
"It was completely two different games from one half to the other," Vermes said postgame. "The first half we were non-committal and we were playing backwards the whole time. We allowed them to dictate the tempo of the game and in the second half, we pushed the game. We took it to another level. We dictated the game and we pushed forward. The opportunities were created because of our mentality to go forward, our mentality to get in the box, and our ability to finish and play through teams if we want to."
Vermes made two substitutions in the late stages of the match, both of whom delivered heroic cameos as vital contributors to the fightback. Rubio's impact was instant, as a mere 23 seconds elapsed between his introduction and his equalizing strike in the 85th minute. Shelton, who entered in the 76th minute, slammed home the game-winner 12 minutes later to cap a wild night in Kansas City, Kansas.
This game offered a telling snapshot of a trait that defined Sporting KC’s 2018 season. The club finished with a team-record 16 goals from substitutes, including an MLS-best five from Rubio.