Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder Luke Mulholland has earned the media’s vote as the North American Soccer League Player of the Month for April.
The Englishman has enjoyed a dynamic first four games to open the new spring season and is the NASL joint leader in goals with three strikes and joint second in assists with two to his name.
Follow Luke Mulholland on Twitter: @LukeMulholland8
“It is great to get this recognition for the first time,” said Mulholland. “I’m glad the league has recognized my efforts this month since scoring three goals and giving two assists is very good for a midfielder. We have started the season in a great way and I know as the season progresses we can do even better. Big thank you to all my teammates for helping me achieve this award.”
Mulholland assisted on the Rowdies’ first goal of the season, sparking a 2-0 win away to the San Antonio Scorpions. In a 4-3 loss to Atlanta, he set up the opener with a knockdown header before scoring two goals for himself, including a free kick from 30 yards out.
Last week as Tampa Bay returned to winning ways, Mulholland, who also boasts a league-best 11 shots on goal, scored three minutes before halftime in a 2-1 win at cross-state rival the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
He has played every minute of four Rowdies games so far and was named to the NASL Team of Weeks 1 and 3.
“Congratulations to Luke on this accolade,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “It is a well deserved award for him as his level of performance since the start of the season has been exceptional. We are all delighted that Luke has been recognized by the national media and the NASL.”
A native of Preston, England, Mulholland joined the Rowdies from the Minnesota Stars in 2012 and was named to the NASL Best XI team last season. He has also played for the Wilmington Hammerheads, where he was the USL Rookie of the Year and at Wingate University where he was the South Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Carolina RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald finished second in the April Player of the Month media voting. He leads all goalkeepers with 15 saves and is in joint first place with a 0.67 goals against average.
Despite being outshot 17-6 in front of a hostile crowd on opening weekend, Carolina was able to earn a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Tampa thanks largely to Fitzgerald’s heroics. Fitzgerald won the first NASL Player of the Week award for that performance and was named to the Team of Weeks 1 and 3.
Atlanta Silverbacks forward Ruben Luna took third place in April. He is one of three players jointly leading the NASL in scoring with three goals. The Mexican hit the target twice in a 4-3 win away to Tampa Bay, equalizing after 21 minutes and again with 63 minutes played, paving the way for a dramatic Silverbacks comeback from 3-1 down. He also found the next in last week’s 2-1 defeat 3-2 defeat to Minnesota, giving Atlanta a 2-1 halftime lead.
In total, seven players were nominated for the April Player of the Month award, each having helped their respective team to at least two wins and to the top of the current standings, or within a point or goal difference of touching distance. The other candidates were:
Milton Blanco, midfield, Atlanta Silverbacks
Blanco has been the Silverbacks’ inspiration in midfield and his consistent performances have seen him contribute either a goal or assist in all three Atlanta games this season. He opened the scoring last week against Minnesota, assisted on the second goal in a 2-0 win over Fort Lauderdale, and provided the pass for Pedro Mendes’ winning goal against the Rowdies.
Brian Shriver, forward, Carolina RailHawks
Shriver claimed the Week 2 Play of the Week as his stunning free kick proved to be the winning goal in a 2-1 win over FC Edmonton. Shriver stands joint top of the scoring charts with three goals having also struck twice in a 3-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale. He was named to the NASL Team of Weeks 2 and 3.
Kyle Altman, defender, Minnesota United
Stars captain Altman has anchored a Minnesota defense that shut out its first two opponents, San Antonio and Edmonton and went 196 minutes before conceding a goal for the first time this season. He was named to the NASL Team of Weeks 1 and 3.
Aaron Pitchkolan, midfield, Minnesota United
Pitchkolan has been a model of consistency for United and was named to the NASL Team of Week 3 as he assisted on the second goal in a 2-0 win over Edmonton. He found the target himself with the winning goal in Saturday’s 3-2 win away to Atlanta with a close range finish.
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