As the MLS regular season comes to a close, I wanted to take a minute and contextualize the season that Hany Mukhtar just gave us.
There has been plenty of talk the last few months about Mukhtar’s MVP bona fides – no shortage of comparisons between Mukhtar, Carles Gil, Dániel Sallói, Valentín Castellanos, Gustavo Bou, and others. The conversation focused on which one of these outstanding players most deserves the 2021 Landon Donovan MVP Award. My colleague Ben Wright put out a fantastic piece a week ago that sorted through the various factors that would eventually form his MVP vote.
Gary Smith also weighed in on Mukhtar’s MVP credentials.
It’s a great conversation and one worth having. But I want to take a different approach and put Hany Mukhtar’s 2021 season within the context of the entire history of MLS. To fully grasp how special of a season Mukhtar put together, you need to understand the exclusive club of elite MLS attackers that Mukhtar just joined.
The 10+10 club
Mukhtar finished the season with 16 goals / 10 assists. Mukhtar is the only MLS player this year to join the ranks of compiling a 10g/10a season. None of the other MVP candidates managed to pull off this statistical feat.
To be clear, I am counting primary assists only using data available on FBRef. Unlike most leagues, official MLS record books often count certain secondary assists as well.
Joining the 10g/10a club is no easy feat. It takes a true talisman that is equally adept at creating opportunities for teammates as burying the chances themself.
In MLS history, there have been only 28 individual seasons that reached 10g/10a. It averages to just a shade over one player per season. The most impressive part about joining this exclusive group is the names Mukhtar will forever be associated with. The 24-member club (four players repeated the feat) reads as a Who’s Who of MLS’ greatest attacking talents.
If MLS had its own Hall-of-Fame (which it absolutely should), a hefty majority of these individuals would already be enshrined or well on their way to memorialization.
Hany Mukhtar’s 2021 season put him within this class of MLS attackers. If he reaches the 10g/10a mark next year, he will join Diego Valeri, Sebastian Giovinco, Thierry Henry, and Preki as the only players to deliver multiple 10g/10a seasons – rarefied air indeed.
So continue to plug Hany Mukhtar for MVP. He is absolutely a deserving candidate. But when the award is eventually given to Carles Gil, because the narrative always wins out, do not think that all is lost for Mukhtar. Either way, he inserted himself into an elite club of MLS attackers that will forever be remembered.