Here at Broadway Sports Media, we recently introduced a new series on our feed.
Each time a Nashville SC player reaches a milestone in appearances for the club (10, 25, 50, 100, 150, 200, and so on…), we will take a snapshot look at their history for the Boys in Gold.
On Saturday, Hany Mukhtar hit a milestone by making his 100th appearance for the club.
Oh my, where to start?
In 100 appearances, Hany Mukhtar quickly established himself as not just the face of the franchise but as one of the faces of the entire league. The accolades already place him in the upper echelon of MLS stars. His production since the tail end of the 2020 season marks one of the best three-year stretches in league history.
In 2021, Mukhtar earned MLS Best XI honors and finished as runner-up for the Most Valuable Player award – an individual honor that many believe should have been given to Mukhtar.
Last year, Mukhtar climbed to new heights. Mukhtar became just the 15th player in league history to record double-digit goals and assists in multiple seasons. He won the 2022 Golden Boot with 23 goals and received the MLS Most Valuable Player award that he coveted. In doing so, Mukhtar became the first-ever professional athlete in Tennessee to win an MVP award outright, and the first since 2003, when Steve McNair was co-awarded the NFL MVP award.
Nashville signed Mukhtar, the club’s first-ever Designated Player, from Brøndby for a reported $2.9 million. Mukhtar arrived with intrigue, but hardly the publicity around the league’s other marquee players. The Danish Superliga just does not garner many eyeballs on this side of the Atlantic.
The start-and-stop nature of the pandemic-effected 2020 season led to a slow start from the German playmaker. It took Mukhtar nine matches to find his first goal. Since then, he has lit the league on fire with 56 goals and 33 assists.
What the numbers say
The topline numbers say it all. On average, Hany Mukhtar scores a goal every other match and notches an assist every third contest.
Since 2020, he leads MLS in goals and ranks second in xG (a category he will soon overtake Taty Castellanos in), third in primary assists, and fifth in Key Passes.
Mukhtar also leads MLS in goals added (g+). If you are not familiar with American Soccer Analysis’ “Goals Added” metric, it “measures a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense. It does this by calculating how much each touch changes their team’s chances of scoring and conceding across two possessions.”
Last season, as compared to other forwards, Mukhtar ranked in the 90th percentile or greater in other statistical areas including progressive carries, progressive passes, passes completed, progressive passing distance, passes into the final third, touches, successful take-ons, progressive carrying distance, and fouls drawn.
His impact on Nashville speaks to his overall quality. In every facet of attack, Mukhtar is the one progressing the ball and sparking goals.
In 2023, the Coyotes’ talisman has picked up where he left off. With six goals and five assists, Mukhtar jointly sits atop the league in goal contributions.
Mukhtar is on pace for his third-consecutive season with double-digit goals and assists. Only Preki – the inevitable answer to all MLS-related trivia – has previously accomplished such a feat.
Mukhtar needs to be compared with the legends, not just his contemporaries.
Through 100 matches, Hany Mukhtar has put together one of the most dominating stretches of play in league history.
The eye test
It is hard to fail the eye test when spectators watch you continuously put the ball into the back of the net. Scoring is simultaneously the hardest and most important thing to do in soccer. Yet, Mukhtar makes it look so effortless.
His patented stepover may be the most devastating move in the league. It freezes defenses creating space for both himself and his teammates around him.
One of the best things that could be said about Mukhtar is that, by all accounts, he is coachable and continues to improve. That aforementioned stepover did not appear to be in his bag until he connected with Nashville SC assistant coach, Steve Guppy – a player known in his day for his own direct dribbling ability.
If we were to try to find a fault in his game, you could point to his defense. Even for a forward, he doesn’t seem to excel in challenging opponents or picking off passes. However, Mukhtar willingly plays his part in Nashville’s league-leading defense pressing opponents when triggered. For a league-leading attacking threat, it is more than sufficient.
At this point, the only question about Hany Mukhtar’s future in Nashville is how tall to build his statue.
While Mukhtar has previously discussed a return to Europe, that possibility seemingly fades with each passing season. Nashville would command a massive fee for Mukhtar, an amount beyond which most clubs would even consider paying for a 28-year-old. Additionally, the German is laying down roots in the United States having recently married his American fiancée.
Last year, Mukhtar signed an extension through the 2025 season. That contract will see him through his age-30 season. Barring a truly unforeseen set of circumstances, Nashville will eventually extend Mukhtar beyond that point.
If he stays healthy and committed to the cause, there is no reason to think that Hany Mukhtar cannot solidify his spot among the greatest ever to grace MLS.