Jamaican Reggae Boy Dane Kelly scored his first goal of the new United Soccer League season as his Charlotte Independence twice came from behind to beat Hartford Athletic 3-2 on Sunday.
In a game at Sportsplex at Matthews which burst to life in the second half, the 30-year-old Kelly canceled out Danny Barrera’s opener when he netted in the 73rd minute, after coming on as a half-time substitute.
Preston Tabortetaka scored a minute later to put the visitors back in front but Marcelo Palomino equalized in the 80th before Valentin Sabella found the winner seven minutes from time.
Kelly, who only re-joined Charlotte last month following a short spell in Israel, said he was steadily returning to match fitness.
“Last week is like the best week I’ve had during training. You see I got more minutes so that tells you that my fitness is getting better,” said Kelly.
Charlotte could have taken an 18th-minute lead after Clay Dimick was tripped in the box but Irvin Parra’s penalty was easily saved by goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell diving low to his right.
With the game still nil-all at the interval, it was Barrera who broke the deadlock when he drilled in a low shot in off the uprights, from the top of the 18-yard box in the 50th minute.
Kelly, on as a replacement for Parra, then produced a fine individual effort – beating two defenders to drive a low volley in at the near post, for his 89th career goal in the USL regular season.
Tabortetaka answered with a superb curling shot from 19-yards out before Palomino volleyed in a rebound from close range to leave the game tantalisingly poised at 2-2.
Sabella’s magic in the form of a stunning left-footed long-range drive into the upper right-hand corner then sealed the points for Charlotte.
“It’s a tremendous finish and a good goal, and obviously made a big impact on the game,” head coach Mike Jeffries said.
“I would also credit the whole group. All the guys who came in made a really big impact. From Dane getting his first goal of the season with us and holding guys up and getting guys involved.”
The victory was Charlotte’s second on the bounce and fourth in five outings, leaving them second on 12 points in the Atlantic Division, six points behind Tampa Bay Rowdies who have played one more.
For Hartford, the defeat was the first in five outings but they remain only two points behind Charlotte in third.
On Saturday, another Jamaican Neco Brett scored a joint season-leading sixth goal and 50th of his USL career as Birmingham Legion beat OKC Energy 2-1 at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The 29-year-old was on the scoresheet as early as the third minute when JJ Williams nodded on a long goal kick and played him through, and he split two defenders to volley past goalkeeper CJ Cochran from 12 yards.
Villyan Bijev equalised from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute but Williams found the winner in the 83rd from close range.
Legion have now won four straight and top the Central Division with 16 points, with OKC bottom without a win in their last five.