Photo courtesy Dave Hanke / Sacramento Republic FC
Phoenix Rising FC’s Chris Cortez scored the first hat trick of the 2018 USL season this past Saturday, the first in the club’s history and the first in the USL veteran’s professional career. In tribute to Cortez’s standout performance – which earned him USL Player of the Week honors earlier this week – we’re going to look back at five of the best hat tricks in the USL’s history.
Kerr began his sixth season with Riverhounds SC last Saturday, and his display in the club’s first game of the 2015 season burnished the Scottish midfielder’s reputation as a fan favorite as the Hounds took victory in the Keystone Derby Cup against their cross-state rivals. Kerr’s hat trick remains the only one logged in the opening game of a club’s season in the USL’s modern era and kicked off an All-League season for Kerr personally.
Martinez was already coming off a career season for the Charlotte Independence in 2016, earning nomination for the USL Most Valuable Player award and All-League First Team honors, but his performance in 2017 put him into a new sphere that saw the standout attacking midfielder make the move to the Colorado Rapids this offseason. His signature performance came against eventual USL Cup champion Louisville City FC, against which he produced a tremendous attacking display to notch a hat trick in a 3-1 victory that brought the crowd at the Sportsplex at Matthews to its feet.
As the USL’s leading scorer in its modern era, and the first signing in 1868 FC history, there was plenty of attention paid to Dane Kelly as he arrived in Nevada for Reno’s inaugural season. With the club having gone winless in its first five games in its inaugural season, Kelly stepped up in a big way on 1868 FC’s visit to the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex with two goals in the opening six minutes and a third midway through the second half to earn the club its first victory. Kelly went on to make history in 1868 FC’s next outing as he notched a second hat trick in as many games, the first player in the USL’s modern era to do so, on his way to claiming the USL Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player award.
Allen had a tremendous first season for New York, scoring 15 goals to claim Rookie of the Year and All-League First Team honors as he helped lead the Red Bulls II to the regular-season championship with a record wins and points total. His performance in the 2016 USL Cup, which saw him notch three consecutive goals after Derrick Etienne Jr.’s opener to claim Most Valuable Player honors. Now with Bethlehem Steel FC, Allen has scored more than 30 goals across the regular season and USL Cup Playoffs to become one of the league’s most prolific scorers over the past two seasons.
Lopez’s hat trick wasn’t the first in the USL Cup Playoffs, that honor fell to Dom Dwyer in Orlando City SC’s victory in 2013’s USL Cup, but the Republic FC playmaker’s performance was one of the most memorable of the league’s modern era. Trailing by two goals at halftime against the LA Galaxy II, Lopez pulled the hosts level with a pair of goals from the penalty spot before scoring a stoppage-time free kick that grabbed victory for Sacramento, sent a sold-out crowd into a frenzy, and sent Republic FC on to the USL Cup.