NASHVILLE, TN – There’s something about a Hany Mukhtar hat trick against the Chicago Fire. The reigning MLS MVP powered Nashville to a 3-0 win at Geodis Park on Saturday night, his second three-goal outing against the Fire and third total in MLS.
Head coach Gary Smith stuck with his recently-preferred diamond midfield, with one notable change. Captain Walker Zimmerman missed the match after noticing groin tightness in training on Friday. New signing Lukas MacNaughton started in his place, less than two weeks after joining Nashville from Toronto.
With Zimmerman out, Mukhtar wore the captain’s armband for the second time in his Nashville career, while Jacob Shaffelburg’s inclusion over Fafà Picault was the only other change in the lineup.
On the pitch
Mukhtar’s first two goals came from the penalty spot, but the scoreline wasn’t flattering. If anything, it could have been worse. Nashville outshot Chicago 30-3, racking up nearly 4.5 expected goals in the process.
Mukhtar had a couple chances to find the net from the run of play before he finally capped off the night in the 91st minute, while Jacob Shaffelburg and Fafà Picault had enticing looks at goal as well. Jack Maher and MacNaughton also came close from set pieces, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The big picture
It’s now two wins in a row for Nashville, outscoring their opponents 6-1 in their last two outings. Saturday’s win pushes them into third place in the Western Conference, six points behind joint-Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Cincinnati and New England Revolution.
After a midweek US Open Cup outing against FC Dallas, they’ll take on DC United, Inter Miami and Charlotte FC in three winnable matches. With their defense still on historic pace and Mukhtar in mid-season form, there’s no reason to think they won’t keep climbing the table.