Orlando City, Bastian Schweinsteiger MLS' biggest winners from April
With Major League Soccer now two months into the season, ESPN FC's Jason Davis takes a look back at the highs and lows from the month of April.
Who won the month? The Lions of Florida
Lions might not be native to the U.S., but the soccer club that carries their name is quickly becoming an apex predator in Major League Soccer. Orlando City won four times in April, pushing themselves into first place in the Eastern Conference -- and they did it mostly without their most famous, highest paid player.
Orlando added to their burgeoning résumé this month by going on the road and beating NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. Little more needs to be said about the club's perfect start in a new stadium, but the Lions did add three more victories at Orlando City Stadium in April.
The schedule has tilted heavily in Orlando City's favor so far, but it's hard to argue with the results.
Who lost the month? Union fans
Generally speaking, Philadelphia sports fans don't get my sympathy from the rest of the country. It's well-known that fans in Philly have a tendency toward a type of behavior that doesn't win them much support. If sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love aren't calling for a coach to be fired, they're probably not talking.
That said, it's hard to not feel bad for fans of the Philadelphia Union two months into the 2017 season. The Union still don't have a win on the year -- they're the only team left without one -- and seeing any indications of progress requires a decidedly optimistic take on their situation.
In April, the Union managed to collect just two of a possible 15 points. That's bad.
Player of the Month: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Chicago probably didn't sign former World Cup winner and all-world midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to score goals, though that's exactly what he did when he arrived from Manchester United. In his first game for the Fire -- after just one training session -- Schweinsteiger collected the first goal of his MLS career in a 2-2 draw with Montreal.
Two weeks later, after putting in an excellent shift in Chicago's 1-0 win over Columbus the week before, Schweinsteiger again got on the scoresheet.
Chicago's form took a dip in the closing weeks of April, with losses in Toronto and New Jersey, and Schweinsteiger didn't score. That doesn't mean Chicago isn't better with him on board. There were players who scored more goals or collected more assists than Schweinsteiger in April, but perhaps no one made as much of a splash than the league's newest DP.
Match of the Month: Seattle Sounders 3-3 New England Revolution
The best game of the month came just before month's end. Seattle's thrilling comeback from a three-goal deficit against the Revolution had it all -- gaffes, great goals, shots hitting the woodwork -- all against the backdrop of a big crowd living and dying with every moment.
Juan Agudelo led the way for the Revs, scoring a goal on either side of halftime. With 15 minutes to go, it looked like the Sounders could give up any hope. Then a fortuitous deflection of Nicolas Lodeiro's shot put the home team on the board. After Will Bruin headed up a fantastic cross from Joevin Jones (who deserves more attention for his contributions to the Sounders attack), it took until the final moments for Osvaldo Alonso to opportunistically nod home a flicked-on header to complete the comeback.
Thrilling doesn't do it justice.
Goal of the Month: David Villa vs. Philadelphia Union
Jozy Altidore scored a lovely goal from combination play with Sebastian Giovinco just this last weekend, and a number of players hit long-range efforts that deserve some recognition. But it's Villa's goal from the halfway line against the Union on April 14 that grabs the honor of goal of the month.
The goal was that heady combination of technique and instinct that sets Villa apart as one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation and one of the best Designated Players the league has ever seen. As is always the case with goals from so far out, some blame goes in the goalkeeper's direction, but it took a truly special effort from Villa to make Andre Blake pay for taking one or two steps too many.
A good month for: Overcoming slow starts
While Orlando, Portland and FC Dallas have been good from the outset, a number of teams needed April to overcome slow March starts that threatened to put them behind the playoff race curve in the early going.
Toronto, New York, Vancouver and D.C. United all made big strides that showed up in the April results. TFC took seven of 12 points, the Red Bulls grabbed nine of 15, Vancouver picked up the same total, and United managed to collect 10 of a possible 15 during the month. That naturally had a big impact on the standings (particularly in the East) and could start to separate the good teams from the bad.
A bad month for: Establishing credentials
When LA hired Curt Onalfo to replace Bruce Arena this winter, there was a bit of grumbling among the Galaxy faithful. Fans might have appreciated Onalfo's work with LA Galaxy II, but they could also read his rather unimpressive MLS head-coaching résumé.
Fast-forward two months, and the grumbling looks justified. The Galaxy have just seven points from eight matches, and rather than use April to overcome a slow start, they sunk even deeper with a series of disappointing performances. Giovani dos Santos hasn't done much, the defense looks shaky, and Jermaine Jones doesn't seem capable of grabbing the team by the scruff of the neck and willing them to better days.
Some of that definitely falls on Onalfo. The question is how much, and whether it means his job is on the line.
What May needs to deliver: Clarity
This being MLS, we can't really be sure what the makeup of the league's elite group might be, even two months in. Are Orlando really good, or has the schedule inflated their record? Have Columbus overcome the inconsistency issues that plagued them in 2016? Are Toronto warming up to steamroll the East? Are Atlanta really good -- or just good enough to keep themselves in the playoff race?
As for the bottom end of the standings, there are questions there too.
Are the Union truly this terrible, or have they underperformed compared to their talent? Are we witnessing the end of Galaxy pre-eminence, or is there something to be salvaged in LA?
Questions upon questions upon questions. Maybe May has the answers.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.