Carlos Vela would be running away with the MLS MVP award in most seasons, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is determined to make it as difficult as possible for the Mexican star to secure the honor.
Ibrahimovic led the LA Galaxy to an undefeated April, scoring in four of the Galaxy's five matches to stay within range of Vela in the Golden Boot race, and to keep the Galaxy close to LAFC atop the MLS standings. Vela had another strong month, and is the only player to be a repeat selection in Goal's MLS Best XI for the month, netting five goals in five matches.
The Montreal Impact were one of the surprises of the month, putting together a successful April without injured star Ignacio Piatti, riding a defense that posted five shutouts in the month, a stingy record for a team that ended March surrendering seven goals in an embarrassing 7-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. That strong April helped the Impact put two players on the April Best XI, including U.S. national team defender Daniel Lovitz, who is solidifying his place in Gregg Berhalter's pecking order.
The Galaxy weren't the only team to finish undefeated in April. New York City FC did the trick as well, and managed its 2-0-3 record on the strength of a tough defense and the arrival of a new striker to pick up the scoring slack for a team still coping with the departure of David Villa.
Here are Goal's selections for the MLS Best XI for the month of April:
Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush couldn't have ended March any worse, but April could not have gone much better. He was on the receiving end of a 7-1 loss in the final match of March, but he and the Impact defense tightened things up in April, posting five shutouts in six matches. Two of those shutouts came without Bush even needing to make a save, but his organization of the defense and command of the penalty area helped Montreal's defense shut teams down in April.
San Jose's Daniel Vega also endured a brutal end to March, with an ugly blunder in a bad loss, but he also turned things around in April, helping the Earthquakes post a 2-1-2 record.
Montreal's Daniel Lovitz was a surprise inclusion in the U.S. national team at the start of the season, but he has showin this season why Gregg Berhalter rates him as a left back option. Lovitz was Montreal's most consistent defender during its impressive 3-1-2 April.
The LA Galaxy went out and signed Giancarlo Gonzalez, but while they searched for a center back Daniel Steres was busy putting together an outstanding month, leading the defense to three shutouts in a month where they allowed just two goals in five matches.
New York City FC's unbeaten April included a much improved defensive level, and Maxime Chanot was instrumental in that improvement, as was the team's shift to three central defenders. NYCFC recorded three shutouts and Chanot was his team's best defender for each of those.
Montreal's Zakary Diallo, FC Dallas' Ryan Hollingshead, Minnesota United's Ike Opara and LA Galaxy Diego Polenta were all worthy of Honorable Mention among defenders in April.
Carlos Vela was the best player in MLS in March, and you can make a strong argument he was once again the league's best player in April, recording five goals and two assists in five matches to lead LAFC to a 3-1-1 record.
Nani has enjoyed a smooth transition to MLS and April saw him carry Orlando City. He scored in all four games in April, compiling five goals and an assist, meaning he had a hand in six of seven orlando City goals during the month.
Jonathan Dos Santos didn't rack up the attacking stats, but his overall play in the heart of the LA Galaxy midfield was instrumental to their 4-0-1 April. He provided the winning assist in the Galaxy's win against Houston, and dominated play in big performances against Philadelphia and Minnesota United.
Vela garners the headlines for LAFC, but Mark-Anthony Kaye was excellent in April, with his three-assist masterpiece in the romp over Seattle serving as the centerpiece.
How good an April did Shea Salinas have for the San Jose Earthquakes? He scored more goals in April (four) than he had in any previous season during his 12-year career. He contributed a goal or assist in four of five matches, helping the Earthquakes post a 2-1-2 record.
Honorable mention honors go to the LAFC tandem of Eduard Atuesta and Latif Blessing, Galaxy midfielder Joe Corona, Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo and Philadelphia's Alejandro Bedoya.
The Galaxy were the best team in MLS in April and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the driving force behind their 4-0-1 record. The Swedish star delivered four goals and an assist, including the winning goal in the month-ending victory against Real Salt Lake.
New York City FC needed a new striker and Heber has emerged as exactly what Domenec Torrent's team needed. He scored or assisted on goals in three straight matches, including the winners against D.C. United and the Chicago Fire.
Honorable mention for forwards goes to Minnesota United's Angelo Rodriguez and Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore.