Below is a selection of the notable performances and moments from the 14 matches played on the 33rd matchday of the 2023 MLS regular season on Wednesday, September 20.
Cucho's Quick Hat Trick Clinches Columbus Playoff Berth
The Crew’s Cucho Hernández continued his sensational form on Wednesday night by recording his second hat trick in his last three appearances as Columbus defeated Chicago Fire FC, 3-0. Hernández scored the three goals in rapid fashion, doing so just 22 minutes and 51 seconds into the match. The Colombian’s hat trick in under 23 minutes was the second-fastest in MLS history from the start of a match, trailing only Hany Mukhtar on July 17, 2021 (15:24).
With the victory and a draw by D.C. United, the Columbus Crew punched their ticket to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. In the first year under head coach Wilfried Nancy, the Crew return to the postseason for the first time since they won MLS Cup in 2020. The highest scoring team in MLS (60 goals), Columbus now sits third in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 11-1-3 home record at Lower.com Stadium.
Gazdag’s Penalty Prowess Secures Philly’s Playoff Spot
With a draw at Charlotte FC on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Union clinched a berth to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs for a sixth-straight season, which is the third-longest active playoff appearance streak in MLS.
Midfielder Dániel Gazdag was the hero on the night, scoring his 11th penalty kick goal of the season in the 97th minute to steal a point in a come-from-behind 2-2 draw. Gazdag’s penalty kick goal was the 19th consecutive penalty he has converted in MLS regular season action since making his debut, surpassing Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro for the most consecutive penalties converted from the start of an MLS career.
Additionally, head coach Jim Curtin has steered the Union to their eighth postseason appearance in the last 10 seasons. Curtin is just the seventh manager in MLS history to lead a single club to six-straight postseason appearance and will look to guide the club their fourth 50-point season when they take on Los Angeles FC on Saturday, September 23 (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).
Sharp Shines as Galaxy Come from Behind
The LA Galaxy were down two goals heading into the second half of their match against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night, but summer signing Billy Sharp provided the cutting edge in front of goal to help secure a comeback victory over the Loons.
Sharp, in his second start for the Galaxy, scored his second goal of the game in the 63rd minute (Watch Here) and became the fastest player in club history to reach five goals for the club, doing so in his first 222 minutes of MLS action. The English forward would then complete his first-career MLS hat trick in the 71st minute (Watch Here), becoming just the fourth player in MLS history to record a hat trick in their first two starts and the first since 2017.
Midfielder Diego Fagúndez would apply the finishing blow in the 82nd minute of the match, latching onto a cross from Tyler Boyd for his first goal as a Galaxy player (Watch Here).
Houston Hitting on All Cylinders
There might not be a hotter team in MLS right now than Houston Dynamo FC, who extended their unbeaten run to seven matches on Wednesday night with a commanding 4-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The last time the Dynamo had a seven-game unbeaten run in a single season was in 2012 (eight matches), which was also their most recent appearance in MLS Cup.
Houston has been flying high at home under first-year head coach Ben Olsen, producing a 10-2-3 record with 31 goals on the season. The catalyst in the middle on Wednesday night was once again Héctor Herrera, who scored and added his 14th assist of the season, good for the second most in the league. In a congested Western Conference, the Dynamo are up to fourth as they creep towards clinching a berth in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Mukhtar Hits the 15-Goal Mark Again
For the third-consecutive MLS regular season, Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar has scored 15 goals for the Boys in Gold. With the goal, Mukhtar moved into sole possession of first place in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi standings ahead of three other players currently on 14 goals.
Mukhtar is the eighth player in league history to score 15 goals in three straight seasons and is just one shy of tying his second-best goal scoring season in MLS of 16 from 2021. Over the last three seasons, he’s scored 54 goals in 92 appearances and is just six goal contributions away from reaching 100 since making his MLS debut in 2020.
Nashville’s talismanic midfielder will look to move another step closer to the centennial mark when they return to action on Saturday, September 23 (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass) to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.
St. Louis CITY SC Clinch Postseason Berth in Inaugural Season
Thanks to a scoreless draw against LAFC and other Western Conference results on Wednesday, St. Louis CITY SC became the first club to clinch a postseason berth in the West. St. Louis is just the third expansion team (excluding the shootout era) to produce at least 50 points and make the playoffs in their inaugural MLS season. With four regular season games left, St. Louis will look to make a run at the Supporters’ Shield, while also aiming to enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.