April has tended to be a big month for Ben Olsen's D.C. United teams over the years. 2012's famous demolition of the New York Red Bulls came in an undefeated April, while last year United hammered FC Dallas (along with wins over the Metros and Revolution) in an undefeated April. You might know what's coming next: United is, if anything, slightly disappointed to only come away with eight points from this year's undefeated April.
This particular version of what's becoming a tradition for the Black-and-Red was a bit more difficult than past editions. In four games, Fabian Espindola made just one appearance. Bill Hamid missed the back half of the month. Luis Silva played in every game, but never more than 19 minutes. They were tough games, too: A first-ever visit to Orlando to take on a strong expansion OCSC, followed by an Atlantic Cup tussle and a match against Houston - who historically speaking have been a huge pain for United - before a long cross-country trip to take on top-of-the-table Vancouver.
When all was said and done, the staff here at B&RU was most impressed with Chris Rolfe's response to these challenges. He ended the month with goals against Houston and Vancouver - both of which broke tied games at the time, and one of which was a game-winer - while he also got the assist on Perry Kitchen's second against the Red Bulls. More than that, though, Rolfe was just straight-up good in each of the past three games. Over 90 minutes, he'd deliver incisive attacking play while not neglecting his defensive duties. Usually he punctuated those efforts with a big, game-changing play to boot. You can't ask for much more than that.
Voters made sure to note that consistency as well as the goals:
Chris Rolfe started the month with a near golazo in Orlando and finished it by scoring goals in the last two games of the month, assisted on a third, and may have been the most consistent offensive starter for D.C. Or the most healthy at the very least (non-GMOs work, kids).
If there was one player that showed consistency in his play this month, it's Chris Rolfe. He scored twice, dropped a dime and his play ultimately led to others performing well. I also thought he tracked back well on defense when necessary to preserve points in a month where we got results from each match. For that, he's my April player of the month.
Two years in a row, Chris Rolfe has made April the cruelest month for anyone trying to defend him. Last year, D.C. United got him for a bag of balls and he immediately sparked United's meteoric rise. This season, its taken a little bit for him to get going, but get going he has. His goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps was a ridiculous piece of skill, from the run to the shot with the outside of his foot, and that put the cherry on top of a great month.
Rolfe was there for United when they needed him the most in April. His two goals were worth four points to United, and he had an assist on a Perry Kitchen goal to boot.
In my book, Rolfe has earned this month's nod decisively. It's not just that he has a goal or an assist in three straight games, or that his two goals were both gorgeous (and also critical, as they helped secure four points). It's that he's been United's most reliable source of creative play during a month in which Fabian Espindola, Luis Silva, and Nick DeLeon were all unavailable at times. United needed a big month from Rolfe, and he delivered.
Rolfe's great month is underlined by the fact that every ballot had him as either their Player of the Month or the runner-up. However, unlike March's straightforward victory for Jairo Arrieta - when no one else picked up more than one vote - there was a big chunk of the electorate who went for Perry Kitchen:
Adam M Taylor
If we spent March wondering when the real Perry Kitchen would please stand up, April is when he put to bed any question of his place in the lineup. And how. Kitchen's work on both sides of the ball - helping to keep Kaka & Co. off the board in Orlando to start the month, netting a brace against the Metros as an encore, and then destroying and facilitating as needed to close out the final two games of the month - was vital in surviving Fabian Espindola's absence, and he's my Player of the Month.
It's a two-horse race between Kitchen and Rolfe for me, and I think it's Kitchen by a nose. There is no other player on this roster that can do what Kitchen does defensively, and his play on the other end of the pitch has improved from year to year. He isn't flashy, but he does everything he's asked, and he's vital in disrupting attacks and starting counters. D.C. United would not be tied for first in the Eastern Conference without Perry Kitchen, and he's my Player of the Month.
For me, Perry Kitchen's brace against the Red Bulls puts him in the lead for April's player of the month. Kitchen stepped up in April to do what we've come to expect of him--boss the midfield, shore up the defense, look kind of menacing--but he also took that extra step up against our biggest rivals. Sure, we didn't win that game, but without Kitchen, we wouldn't have gotten the results we did in April. He continues to be a rock for this team.
That's what we think on the subject. Let us know in the comments how much you love Rolfe, or you can also tell us that we're crazy for not recognizing, say, Michael Farfan or Bobby Boswell. Have at it!