Dane Kelly’s reputation preceded him upon his arrival as the first signing in Reno 1868 FC history.
Already the leading regular-season scorer in USL history, the Jamaican was the centerpiece for the ambitious club to build around as it looked to make a mark in its inaugural season.
After a season that saw the forward notch two hat tricks, his first call up to the Jamaican National Team, and a single-season high 18 goals to claim the USL Golden Boot, it’s safe to say Kelly lived up to the expectations.
Kelly’s biggest month of the season came in May where he earned Player of the Month honors with eight goals, including hat tricks in back-to-back contests, the first time that had been achieved in the USL’s seven seasons.
His six-game goal-scoring streak pushed him to the top of the leaderboard in the race for the Golden Boot, and a brace against the Portland Timbers 2 on Sept. 23 gave him the final margin to claim the award ahead of Real Monarchs SLC’s Chandler Hoffman and the Charlotte Independence’s Enzo Martinez on 16 goals despite missing the final three games of the regular season due to injury.
As impressive as Kelly’s bursts of form in front of goal were, so was his consistency. Kelly’s average of a goal every 109.4 minutes was bested among the league’s leaders by only fellow Jamaican international Romario Williams (108.9) and the New York Red Bulls II’s Stefano Bonomo, who came on strongly in the second half of the season to average a goal every 99.2 minutes.
Now Kelly will try to accomplish something only one other player in league history has by claiming the USL Cup after winning the league’s Golden Boot in the regular season. Equaling Dom Dwyer’s 2013 achievement would put the cap on a remarkable season for the standout striker.