In his second season with Nashville SC, Hany Mukhtar is taking Major League Soccer by storm. The attacking midfielder’s 15 goals and 12 assists lead the league, signifying a significant improvement from his nine combined goals and assists in his first year with Nashville.
“For everyone, last year was a difficult time. I don’t want to complain because the whole world had difficulties,” Mukhtar told Broadway Sports in an exclusive interview. “I think the pandemic has one good thing; that we appreciate the good things we have in life. I think that made me even stronger, to know that you need to work even harder for that which you love. As a team and as a club, we’re on a good way to succeed where we want to be.”
Nashville have succeeded this year. With just one match left in the regular season, they’re tied on points with Philadelphia Union and are all but guaranteed to finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, earning the right to host a playoff match at Nissan Stadium. Only three teams have scored more than Nashville’s 54, and their +23 goal difference is tied for the league best. They’ve treated fans to plenty of memorable moments at Nissan Stadium this year, including a six minute hat trick from Mukhtar, which he called his favorite memory in Nashville so far.
Mukhtar still hasn’t forgotten how the 2020 season ended, though. The expansion team lost to Columbus Crew in extra time in a match where Nashville had chances to find a winning goal.
“I had a good chance with my left foot,” he remembered with a hint of disappointment nearly a year later. “It was very bitter end. They were a great team, but we could compete with them. It was a very tight game. We knew that it was so close, and who knew how far we could go if we could beat Columbus.”
With that extra chip on his shoulder, a deeper squad and after a full season to adapt to the rigors of MLS, Mukhtar is in the midst of a career-best season, and has firmly established himself as one of the league’s premier attackers. Enough so that he’s been talked about as a contender for the Most Valuable Player award.
“If I’m not mistaken, the criteria for an MVP is somebody who not only scores goals, but can be maybe encapsulated as the talisman for their group, somebody that leads that group,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “I think he’s shown as many qualities or more than anyone this year who’s in form. There’s some guys that have not played the whole season but are in very, very good teams. But let’s just look at what he’s achieved in a second year group. For me, that makes him an incredible candidate.”
There’s plenty of competition for the highest individual award in the league, particularly from New England’s Carles Gil, who leads the league with an astounding 18 assists.
“It would be a great honor,” Mukhtar admitted. “I would lie if I said something else. Obviously, though, you can’t be the best player if your team is not winning and you have a bad season. First of all I want to be successful, go as far as possible and hopefully win the cup. And then yeah, if I win the MVP I will be very happy and thankful.”
For Mukhtar, like anyone in this league, MLS Cup is the ultimate goal. Is Nashville good enough to take home the cup in just their second year?
“I mean, we’re in second place,” he laughs. “If I were to say no there would be something wrong. We’re definitely strong enough.”
Listen to our full conversation with Hany Mukhtar by searching “Speedway Soccer” wherever you get your podcasts.