After yet another brilliant Dénis Bouanga performance, the question begs to be asked: Is he the best player in Major League Soccer right now?
LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo was certainly entertaining that possibility following Saturday's dominant 3-0 win over Austin FC, fueled by the Gabon international's stunning hat-trick display at BMO Stadium.
With three highlight-reel strikes, including two world-class volleys, Bouanga continued the torrid offensive output that's seen him produce six goals and two assists over six matchdays. His inflated stat line also includes 5g/1a in Concacaf Champions League play, with the Black & Gold's red-hot winger netting a brace midweek against Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their lopsided quarterfinal first-leg victory.
"He’s obviously confident, he’s scoring some great goals," Cherundolo said, refusing to take any credit for the Designated Player's amazing run of form.
"I don’t think there’s a lot of coaching going on with a player of Dénis’ quality. The guy just scores."
The second-year manager also suggested that Bouanga could very well run away with Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors at season's end should he add some extra elements to his already-lethal offensive toolbox. Some players who may have a word in that? Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada and Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris.
"If we could teach him how to set up goals more often a little better, then he’s hands down the best player in the league," Cherundulo insisted.
"There’s still room for improvement, and that’s the scary thing."
For his part, Bouanga is basking in what's becoming a career season after joining LAFC from French side Saint-Etienne midway through their MLS Cup-Supporters' Shield-winning 2022 campaign.
"It's a magical moment because it's not given to everyone," said the 28-year-old, who prior to 2023 had never scored a hat-trick. So far this season, he has two.
"I can feel it, every time I have the ball I want to do something," Bouanga added through a translator. "I feel the fans and it makes me want to do even better."