Nashville SC rode a Hany Mukhtar hat-trick to an emphatic 4-1 win against Western Conference rival Colorado Rapids. Spurred on by an MVP caliber showing from their MVP candidate, the Coyotes won their third consecutive match, putting the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs firmly within their grasp.
After heavy rotation in Vancouver, Gary Smith trotted out his strongest lineup for another six-pointer.
On the pitch
Colorado’s system took Nashville aback, with midfielder Bryan Acosta man-marking Hany Mukhtar when Nashville had the ball and dropping into the backline when in possession. The Rapids pushed their fullbacks high, and the overloads caused Nashville plenty of discomfort.
Randall Leal drew a penalty just past the 20 minute mark, and Mukhtar put the Coyotes ahead from the spot. The lead was short-lived, though, with Gyasi Zardes equalizing just six minutes later.
Frantic in the first half, Nashville came out of the break in electric form. Mukhtar re-gained the lead with a low strike to the bottom corner just nine minutes after the break. Jacob Shaffelburg doubled the lead in the 61st minute, tucking home a rebound after C.J. Sapong’s shot was saved. And in the 75th minute, Hany Mukhtar made it a hat-trick, sealing an emphatic win.
The big picture
After two months of poor form, Nashville have won three in a row, outscoring their opponents 11-1 in that stretch. They’re up to fifth in the Western Conference table, just one point behind Dallas and two behind Minnesota. A home playoff match is still within reach.
Mukhtar has been playing at an MVP level since 2021, and has even taken a step further in recent weeks. His case for MVP only grew stronger on Wednesday, with the 10th multi-goal game of his Nashville career. He’ll go head to head with fellow MVP contender Sebastián Driussi on Saturday, as Nashville take on Austin FC in another six pointer.