Baltimore soccer aficionados know the Kelly name quite well, to say the least. Danny Kelly played professionally for 15 years, including a seven-year stint with indoor soccer mainstay Baltimore Blast, where he was a three-time all-star. And since 2006, Kelly has been the head coach of the Blast, leading the local squad to four titles and earning 2008-09 National Indoor Lead Coach of the Year honors.
But there’s another Kelly in the pipeline, who’s about ready to leave his mark on the city 40 minutes south of Baltimore. Keegan Kelly, a nationally-rated class of 2016 recruit out of McDonogh High (Owings Mills, Md.), committed to Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski’s back in January.
“For me, I was fortunate enough to have full-ride offers from pretty much any college in the country, but as soon as I got on campus [at Maryland] I fell in love,” said Kelly, a 5-foot-7, forward/attack with a knack for finding the back of the net. “I don’t know what it was, but it’s like Maryland was just home. I already knew guys like George Campbell and Connor Smith there, but of all the places I visited like Duke, UVA, Georgetown and UCLA, Maryland was where I felt most comfortable. It’s the place where I had the most faith in the program and saw a real commitment to winning.”
Kelly already had a longstanding relationship with Cirovski through his father, while the UMD headman saw the young forward on multiple occasions at McDonogh and with his club team, the Baltimore Celtics. Even when the offers started piling in, Kelly said he never had a doubt where he’d be playing his college ball.
“The history, the winning ways, the guys Coach Cirovski produces, the players they put in the MLS … it’s incredible,” Kelly said. “I could have gone anywhere in the country, but why leave home? Everything I could want is at Maryland. Being in Baltimore and being able to represent the state of Maryland at [the University of] Maryland, it’s a great feeling.”
And it’s a feeling Kelly didn’t figure he’d ever experience until about a year or so ago.
Kelly actually grew up in rural Pennsylvania, beginning his futbol career with a local rec program before advancing to a more advanced travel club. But by the time he was 13 the family opted to move to the Baltimore area, in part because the soccer teams competed at a higher level and Kelly had just earned a scholarship to renowned McDonogh. On top of that, Kelly’s mother was originally from Baltimore and had always wanted to return, while his father, obviously, was coaching the Blast.
So, after arriving in the Old Line State, Kelly joined McDonogh and the nearby club team, the Baltimore Bays. A year later, Eagles head coach Brandon Quaranta took over the Baltimore Celtics club squad, prompting Kelly and many of his teammates to leave the Bays for the newfound power.
It was Quaranta who helped the diminutive Kelly develop from someone who, in the forward’s words, ”had some potential, but really was just hoping to get any college look at all.”
“I give a lot of credit to Coach Brandon and what he’s been able to do for me,” Kelly said. “As a freshman at McDonogh I was splitting time and I was just hoping to do enough the next couple years to get into any DI college. But by my sophomore year, I started to take off. It’s like a college environment at McDonogh, and Coach Brandon really provided me with a lot of opportunities I didn’t think I’d have. He’s definitely made me into the player I am today.
“So it’s been wild since my sophomore year. Getting all these offers, winning a championship with the Celtics, winning a title with McDonogh, and then doing it in Baltimore, it’s something I never thought would happen. A lot of the players come from England and overseas, so to be [local] and be able to do this, it’s a blessing.”
Kelly’s signature moment came last July while with the Celtics during the national title game in Germantown, Md. With his team down 1-0 late, the McDonogh product said it “looked pretty bleak” since their opponent had gone into defensive mode, while the Celtics weren’t getting much penetration at all.
But the Baltimore squad somehow managed to break through for an equalizer, and then, with time running down, Kelly beat two defenders for the game-winner.
“I saw the center-back get a little lazy with a pass, so I attacked, stole the ball, beat another defender and then beat the goalie,” Kelly said. “I walked the ball into the back of the net for the goal, and that’s how we won nationals. That was probably my favorite moment, because it gave us so much energy and it put us on the map. It was awesome.”
A couple months later, Kelly parlayed his stellar sophomore campaign into a spot on the U17 national team. He actually spent most of his junior year down in Florida training with the U17 squad, taking classes at a residency school in the area.
Kelly, who called playing with the best up-and-coming stars in America this year "surreal," just returned to Baltimore in late April. He will conclude his senior year at McDonogh next fall.
“I feel like I’ve really grown a lot as a player these last couple years,” Kelly said. “I’m definitely an attacking mind, so I can bring goals and some flare to Maryland’s offense. I’m pretty good at beating my man, getting in good spots and scoring the ball. I do need to keep working on my defense, and I’m going to work my butt off under Sasho to get better [defensively], but offensively is where I’m excelling right now."
Provided he continues to progress, Kelly said his goal is to help Maryland for the next year or more (like in basketball, top-rated soccer talents tend to leave college early) before singing a professional contract, either overseas or in the MLS.
Just like his father two decades earlier.
“I don’t always like to give my dad a lot of credit,” laughed Kelly. “But from Day One, he was the one that was kicking the ball around with me. He was the one who got me out there and taught me what the game was all about. As much credit as I give Coach Brandon, my dad helped to get me to where I am today too. I'd love to take what he's taught me, and what Coach Brandon have taught me, and have a great professional career.”
Kelly Living Up To Family Name
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