Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN ITEL
Former D.C. United and New York Red Bulls midfielder Shawn Kuykendall died Wednesday morning after a nearly yearlong battle with a rare and incurable form of cancer.
He was 32.
Announced on his website, kuykenstrong.com, founded shortly after he was diagnosed with thymic cancer last July, Kuykendall’s death was felt throughout the world of MLS after his public fight against his illness inspired countless.
The son of Kurt Kuykendall, a former professional goalkeeper in the old North American Soccer League, he was one of three brothers to play at American University. After a highly successful youth career, Kuykendall became a standout at American, where his father also starred, for four years before being drafted by D.C. United in the fourth round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.
The following year he was traded to the New York Red Bulls, where he played in one reserve match before being released in 2007. He later helped with coaching at American and in various youth clinics.
The fight against the disease, first discovered when he felt a sharp pain in his back and midsection while working out with the American soccer team last fall, was detailed last fall in an article in the Washington Post. A tumor, the size of a small apple, had rooted itself inside his chest.
Months of painful treatment led to weight loss and hair loss, but his positive nature and faith continued to inspire those who became aware of his fight. The term “Kuykenstrong” that was coined on his website even caught on with a handful of MLS stars during last summer’s Gold Cup and MLS All-Star festivities.