Expectations were sky high for Hany Mukhtar following his MVP-winning 2022 campaign. He started the season on pace to become the first back-to-back MVP winner in MLS history, but fell flat in the second half of the season, and the rest of Nashville’s attack went with him.
Hany Mukhtar 2023 grade: B-
2023 by the numbers
Matches played: 44 (1st on Nashville SC)
Minutes played: 4,018 (2nd on Nashville SC)
Goals: 17 (1st on Nashville SC)
Assists: 17 (1st on Nashville SC)
Goal contributions per 96 minutes: 0.81 (1st on Nashville SC)
2023 in review
These report cards are, more than anything, a reflection of performance versus expectation. Mukhtar has essentially been the sole provider of Nashville’s attacking output since they joined MLS. Fairly or not, that comes with high expectations, especially after his electric 2022 campaign.
Mukhtar started the season right where he left off. He came off the bench after an ankle issue in preseason in the season opener, and immediately picked up his first assist of the season after just five minutes.
Mukhtar took off over the first half of the season, scoring 13 goals as Nashville went on a 10-match unbeaten run. This hot streak culminated in a June 17 hat-trick against St. Louis City, his second of the season.
That hat-trick would ultimately be Mukhtar’s final MVP-caliber performance of the season. Nashville lost five of their next six matches, with Mukhtar failing to score in any. After June 17, he scored just four goals in the final 26 matches of the year, a catastrophic drop in production.
Even with his loss of form, Mukhtar still found himself towards the top of the MLS scoring charts. He also managed to put himself in rarified MLS air, becoming the second player in league history to score double-digit goals and assists in three consecutive seasons.
Mukhtar was again the best Nashville SC player by a long shot. Even with his second-half slump, he put up some of the best numbers in the league. Perhaps his B- is unfair, but when comparing his pre- and post-June form, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been for Nashville if he could have maintained even a fractional level of production.
Mukhtar signed a new contract last season, tying him to Nashville through 2025. Nashville did receive a bid from the Qatari Stars League in the $7 million range, a bid that Gary Smith surprisingly acknowledged unsettled Mukhtar (the dates correspond with his drop in form).
Per the MLS Players Association salary guide, Mukhtar is the 16th-highest paid player in MLS. Even with his drop off, he’s still worth significantly more than what he makes currently, and sources indicated earlier in the year that Sebastian Driussi’s $6m guaranteed compensation (nearly double what Mukhtar made in 2023) was a point of frustration after Mukhtar beat him in the MVP race.
Nashville have no incentive to sell, and Mukhtar hasn’t seemed particularly interested in leaving. The most likely outcome would appear to be another contract extension and a bump in pay, and the situation would have to devolve significantly for Mukhtar to request a move out of Nashville. However, the feeling is much more uncertain than it was at this time last season.
Moment of the season
It should have been the opening goal of the Leagues Cup semifinals, one of the best goals I’ve ever witnessed in person that was somehow disallowed for offside on Alex Muyl.
With that goal off the list, Mukhtar’s standout moment was his hat-trick against St. Louis City, his most dominant showing of the season and the last performance of his MVP candidacy.