Dane Kelly’s slow start shouldn’t worry fans

USL Championship all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly is off to a slow start with Indy Eleven, but it’s not the time to panic.

The announcement of USL Championship’s all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly signing for Indy Eleven was a major move in the offseason for Indy Eleven. The strength of his abilities created high expectations among supporters of the club. Dane Kelly has 68 total goals from his time with USL Championship teams and leads Birmingham Legion’s Chandler Hoffman by almost 10 goals. Kelly has spent time with four different USL Championship teams before landing in the Circle City: Charleston, Swope Park Rangers, Reno 1868, and most recently on loan at Richmond from the MLS team he’s been a part of, DC United.

Kelly’s Role: Goalscorer

Dane Kelly’s role on any of the teams he’s been on is one of the most commonly sought after but often the hardest to find. Being your team’s primary “goal-scorer” is a responsibility bestowed on many strikers but is easily the most difficult to live up to. For Kelly, it’s only gotten harder over time as he’s cemented himself in the record books as the competition’s leading scorer.

Dane Kelly’s role on this Indy Eleven squad is no different than his previous roles. He’s the team’s primary goal scorer with players like Thomas Envoldsen, Eugene Starikov, and Ilija Ilic also being counted on for goals scored,  however, they weren’t signed entirely to score goals like Kelly was.

Buying Goals

For anyone who’s seen the movie “Moneyball”, the scene in which Jonah Hill’s character is explaining to Brad Pitt’s character the fundamental issue with how baseball teams are built. People buy on the value of the player and not the output they put out and translating that to soccer, at times, people buy on the value of a player and not their output.

Dane Kelly is a literal goal machine for USL Championship teams which is why he was eventually signed by DC United. For Indy Eleven, his signing was banking on his production from two years ago rather than his recent performances and form. His form hasn’t been awful post-Reno, it’s just been slightly scattered which has meant that going from a handful of appearances to a full-season with Indy Eleven has shown that Kelly has some rust to burn off. Martin Rennie discussed following the home opener that a striker’s role is every bit as physical as it is mental. Fan should expect after he snags his first that more will come.

New System

The 3-4-3 system implemented by Rennie in 2019 came as a shock to some but simply news to most. It’s been rumored that Rennie sought to implement this system as early as last year but due to injuries couldn’t find the right pieces. The Saint Louis FC match at the beginning of the season showed promise but obvious mechanical issues with the finer aspects of the tactic. As a result, much like Dane Kelly, it’s taken some time to knock off both the form rust as well as the tactical rust. You can see some of the more recent form in the video below.

Most of the newer players brought in were relatively familiar with the formation and those in the starting eleven (Starikov and Ayoze in particular) didn’t have a difficult time jumping in. For Kelly, in particular, he has played his role as a center forward well, with Envoldsen on the left sliding under him in the team’s first three games. The new system, however, adds to the rust and comfort level that a player like Kelly has to get used to. The early switch from Ilija Illic to Eugene Starikov has allowed more of a playmaker type in Starikov support attacking runs by Envoldsen and Kelly. The new system will take some time to get used to and once more fluid should allow Kelly to bang in goals from everywhere.

It’s early

Is there ever a perfect time to judge a team’s performance? One game, two games, 10 games? Whatever it may be, it’s hard to know when the proper time to judge a player or team’s performance. For Indy Eleven, it’s far too early to begin to make really strong judgment calls on the team. Implementing a new system on a relatively new team has created a fluidity issue at times. For a goal scorer like Kelly, his runs have seen him get into the right spots but as the team chemistry grows the number of chances will go from chances missed to chances converted.

Reviewing things from the team’s most goal heavy game (Indy vs. Charlotte Independence, the match saw goals galore but didn’t see much in terms of conversions from the forwards

Courtesy of USLChampionship.com

Forwards, in particular, are goal oriented, but it may be in this system in particular that Rennie’s idea isn’t to put the responsibility of converting chances on the shoulders of the forwards but expand the possibility that a winger or midfield might get the chance to score.

Be patient with Kelly and the rest of the squad

Three games in, it would be easy to start looking worried about the performance of the league’s all-time leading goal scorer. The expectations were high going into the season and while they haven’t backed it up in numbers, the growth from game to game has been encouraging for fans to see. The biggest thing for Indy Eleven to be successful further into the season is game time and patience which is something that can easily go towards fans as well. The 3-4-3 formation is daunting and outgoing but with time will come tactical understanding and with tactical understanding will come goals.


Photo Courtesy of Robbie Mehling/SocTakes.com

Brian Cook

Brian has followed Indy Eleven as a supporter since their birth and began covering the team in a number of capacities in 2015. He can be reached at brianfrederickcook@gmail.com or @SoccerwithBrian on Twitter.