SEATTLE (AP) — Xander Bailey stood at midfield with Seattle star Clint Dempsey at his side Saturday, waiting for kickoff against Tottenham.
When the whistle blew, the 18-year-old Bailey — a Make-A-Wish recipient from Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia — took the pass from Dempsey, dribbled down the field and took a shot on former U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Friedel. He was then subbed off in front of 55,349 to a massive ovation while being mobbed by Seattle teammates.
“To give him this opportunity is just fantastic. I saw the look in his eyes and you could just tell he was overwhelmed and he was so appreciative,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “It makes for a day I know he will never forget. Our guys won’t forget it either because it impacts us. We see what it means to him and being able to help in that regard and be part of that sort of situation is unique and special for us as well.”
Bailey took part in training with the Sounders on Friday, and the club made sure his experience was special. Bailey walked out with the team during pregame ceremonies and was introduced as part of the starting lineup. Seattle’s largest fans group — the Emerald City Supporters — created a small tifo in honor of Bailey and green cards were handed out through the stadium with Bailey’s name and his No. 45.
Bailey is a native of Bluefield, West Virginia and has been playing as a midfielder for the King’s Warriors PDL Reserve team. ESPN announcers said during Saturday’s broadcast that Bailey suffers from cystic fibrosis.