He is listed on the IU Athletics Web site as a midfielder, started the season at defensive back and is now attacking opposing goalies as a forward. While his position on the field may not always be consistent, the level of play for sophomore Daniel Kelly has stayed the same.
After his change from defender to forward earlier in the season, the Hoosiers have been much more productive offensively. The team has won five of its last seven games, scoring at least two goals in every win. In IU’s 3-2 victory against Evansville on Sept. 30, Kelly netted his first goal of the season. He followed that performance with the Hoosiers’ first goal in a win against Butler on Tuesday night.
Even after the Hendersonville, Tenn., native signed with the Hoosiers out of high school, IU coach Mike Freitag said he did not know where on the field Kelly would fit best.
“I just knew he was a good player ... pretty versatile,” Freitag said. “He is a kid that, quite honestly, I could play in the back, as a midfielder and up top.”
Position doesn’t matter to the sophomore.
“It’s not really a big change for me,” Kelly said of his fluid position in the lineup. “I will do whatever is best for the team.”
Last season, Kelly played primarily at the forward position for the Hoosiers. But after a successful stint as defender on the U.S. U-20 National Team last spring in New Orleans, Kelly made the switch from attacker to defender.
Kelly played on the back line against Duke and Akron but was moved to the offensive side of the field when Freitag thought sophomore Rich Balchan would be a better fit at defensive back.
Senior midfielder Brad Ring said Kelly’s move from defender to forward has been positive for the team.
“Having him up there gives us a whole new dimension up top,” Ring said. “He is creative, holds the ball well, (is) fast and is good with both feet. Ever since he has been up there, he has created a lot of chances.”
The idea of playing forward is not new to Kelly.
From his earliest days in the sport through high school, he preferred to be used as a striker. Once he reached college, Kelly played almost extensively up top, scoring four goals while earning Freshman All-Big Ten honors.
“I grew up playing forward before I ever started playing back, so I think it is a natural position for me,” Kelly said.
The sophomore said there is a different mentality when playing the two positions.
“In the back, you have to play simple, quick and know where you are going,” Kelly said. “There really is no room for error on defense. On offense, you can take more risks in the final third. I hopefully bring some creativity and chances on goal.”
Freitag said Kelly’s all-around skills bring an aspect of play rarely seen at the collegiate level.
“He is just a solid player for us,” Freitag said. “I think it is still taking him a little bit of time to adjust, but I know ‘DK’ could be a threat up top and secure in the back. We are just trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and he is a versatile piece that could fit in multiple places.”