NEW YORK — Jamaican Dane Kelly netted a hat-trick to fire Charlotte Independence to their third win in four outings in the United Soccer League last weekend, headlining a productive round of matches for Caribbean marksmen.
Playing at Sportsplex at Matthews in North Carolina last Saturday, the 29-year-old Kelly banged in a brace in the first half before adding a third late on, as the hosts thrashed neighbours North Carolina FC 3-1 to win their second on the bounce.
Charlotte are second in Group G on 18 points, four behind leaders Birmingham Legion FC and eight clear of third-place North Carolina.
Kelly put Charlotte ahead in the 10th minute when Liberian Joel Johnson broke down the right and squared a pass from the byline for an easy tap in from close range.
The lead was doubled 10 minutes later, Kelly bundling in his second off the post from 10 yards after being put through by a short pass from Luke Haakenson.
Charlotte led 2-0 at the half and Kelly guaranteed the points in the 79th minute with a superb, right-footed volley from the centre of the box, after a sweeping cross from the right from Derek Gebhard.
Trinidadian Andre Fortune pulled one back for North Carolina in the first minute of stoppage time, driving home a low cross into the box from Manny Perez.
In a Group D contest at Toyota Field in San Antonio, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Kyle Edwards and Jamaica Under-23 star Deshane Beckford both got on the scoresheet but could not prevent Rio Grande Valley from going under 3-2 to San Antonio FC.
Luis Solignac put the hosts ahead after only 10 seconds to spark a dramatic first half that saw the Argentine nearly double the lead three minutes later, when his long-range volley was denied by the uprights with goalkeeper Kyle Ihn well off his line.
Rio Grande survived, however, and levelled in the 10th when Edwards collected Ian Hoffman’s through ball and finished with a low drive from close range.
Two quick goals then put the game beyond Rio Grande as Hunter Gorskie and Ignacio Bailone scored in the space of six minutes to hand San Antonio a 3-1 lead after 22 minutes.
The lead held at half-time but Beckford set up a tense finish when he held off his marker to score at the near post from 10 yards out in the 59th minute.
For Rio Grande, the defeat was their fourth-straight and ninth of the season, keeping them rooted to the bottom of the group on three points.
San Antonio, meanwhile, with their fourth-successive win, remained unbeaten and runaway leaders with 27 points.
In Group G, Guyana international Keanu Marsh-Brown netted his third goal of the season in the 28th minute but Memphis 901 FC were held to their second stalemate in three games to remain winless in five, when Bruno Lapa equalised from the spot in the 48th minute for leaders Birmingham Legion at Autozone Park in downtown Memphis.
Memphis are bottom of the group on seven points and a single win while Birmingham are four clear at the top on 22 points.
In a top-of-the-table clash at Lucas Oil Stadium in Downtown Indianapolis, Jamaican Devon Williams scored his third of the campaign as Louisville brushed aside Indy Eleven 3-1 – for their fourth win in five outings – to take the lead in Group E with 20 points.
Williams opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a poacher’s goal from point-blank range, and Corben Bone and Napo Matsoso added strikes to be on top 3-0 before Tyler Pasher added a consolation goal in first-half stoppage.
And at Greater Nevada Field, Haitian Christiano François scored in the 49th minute as Reno 1868 thrashed Portland Timbers 2 for 7-1 to win their fourth-straight and take sole possession of the lead in Group A with 24 points.