Nov. 5 (UPI) -- LAFC striker Carlos Vela was named Major League Soccer MVP after scoring a single-season record 34 goals in 31 games for the second-year franchise.
Vela edged rival striker Zlatan Ibrahimvoic of the Los Angeles Galaxy for the honor Monday. The LAFC star earned 69 percent of the vote against the Swedish forward, who earned 14 percent of the vote. Vela's 1.10 goals per game rank No. 1 in MLS history for players with at least 15 goals in one season.
"My teammates are an important part to get this trophy, because they make my work easy," Vela said at the trophy presentation. "I come every morning to training, and I'm happy because I see my friends.
"When you work in a place like that, it's just easy. It was easy for me to get all the goals and wins with this team, so for that I say thank you. Sometimes you make more work than me, but in the end I get the credit, so I appreciate that."
Vela scored 20 goals in 20 games, faster than any player in league history. He totalled 36 goals combined, including the regular season and playoffs. Vela also had 15 assists to amass a record total of 49 combined goals and assists in the regular season. The Mexico native was playing in his first MLS season after coming over from La Liga side Real Sociedad. He is the first Mexican player to win the award.
Vela, 30, led LAFC to a league-record 72 points. The Seattle Sounders ended LAFC's magical run with a 3-1 win in the Western Conference final. Seattle is set to play Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final at 3 p.m. EST Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Ibrahimovic, 38, had 30 goals this season for the Galaxy. Reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez had 27 scores, followed LAFC's Diego Rossi, who scored 16 times. Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri, the 2017 MLS MVP, ranked second in assists with 16 on the season. Vela tied for third in assists with FC Dallas star Michael Barrios. Maximiliano Moralex had a league-best 20 assists.
Martinez led MLS with a then-record 31 goals in 34 games last season. Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire was the last American winner of the MLS MVP. Magee won the honor in 2013. Preki is the only player who has multiple MLS MVP awards. The former Kansas City Wizards star won MLS MVP in 1997 and 2003.
"This trophy just makes me more hungry," Vela said. "The next step is to be champion. I will work really hard to get that trophy for my team, for my club."