Keegan Kelly’s resilience fuels comeback after multiple devastating injuries


Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

Junior midfielder Keegan Kelly dribbles the ball up the field during the Aztecs’ 3-2 loss against the Detroit Mercy Tigers on Sept. 9 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

by Cristian Alvarez, Staff Writer

There’s that famous line, “turn your setbacks into comebacks,” and San Diego State junior midfielder Keegan Kelly is a prime example.

Last season after playing the first seven games for the Aztecs, Kelly suffered a devastating foot injury in the first half against UNLV on Sept. 24 that ended his season.

This was Kelly’s second career-threatening injury in back-to-back seasons. He never got the chance to play his sophomore year because of an injury that required surgery.

The Aztecs posted a 7-10-1 record in 2018 but lost a crucial component of its core in the midfield.

“Losing (Keegan) was devastating at the time,” sophomore midfielder Laukoa Santos said. “He still kept his positive attitude every day at practice and team meetings.”

The Baltimore native took the time to heal and was fully fit by the start of the 2019 campaign.

Kelly made his way back onto the starting lineup to provide his spark of creativity in the midfield for the Aztecs. 

He has started every match so far this season.

Kelly’s comeback was solidified in the Aztecs’ recent 1-1 draw against the Santa Clara Broncos back on Sept. 14 in which he scored the only goal for the Aztecs that evening.

It was both his first score as an Aztec and of the year.

“I’ve been having my chances, and it was nice to finally put one in the back of the net,” Kelly said.

Even though he missed the final 11 games last season, Kelly had three assists which was tied for a team high.

Dealing with the injuries was tough to swallow for Kelly, but he never once thought about giving up. 

“It was difficult on a mental level,” Kelly said. “Having the support of my teammates during the entire process helped.”

Prior to his time at SDSU, Kelly spent two seasons attending the University of Maryland.

He helped the Terrapins go undefeated in the 2016 regular season (16-0-2) along with tallying the most wins in program history (15) that year.

As a freshman, he made 17 appearances and scored one goal.

“He’s a well gifted player,” Santos said. “He leads by example with his skill on the field rather than his words.”

During his days at McDonogh High School, Kelly was viewed as a top prospect.

Scouting reports from College Soccer News ranked him ninth in the nation and 28th by Top Drawer Soccer, respectively.

Senior midfielder Pablo Pelaez recalled being excited when the news broke about Kelly transferring to SDSU.

“He’s a different type of player,” Pelaez said. “He’s willing to take you one on one and show that strength, size and power does not matter.”

Kelly appreciates everyone that’s supported his passion for soccer.

He credits his father Daniel Kelly, a former professional soccer player himself, for the inspiration to love and play the game.

“I’m grateful for him placing a ball at my feet,” Kelly said. “He’s always been someone that pushed me to be my best.”

Currently, the Aztecs (2-4-1) have already started their Pac-12 Conference play – losing two games on the road against No. 12 Washington and Oregon State.

Kelly’s next match for the Scarlet and Black is a non-conference game against Brown on Sept. 29 at Stevenson-Pincince Field. 

Cristian Alvarez is as senior studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @AlvarezTheViper.

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