The 27-year-old German midfielder, fresh off winning the 2022 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi, made that crystal clear on The Call Up while waiting to learn this year’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP award recipient.
“I would lie if I said I don't want to win it,” Mukhtar said. “I want to win it, I want to get that award. I put a lot of hard work into it and it would be a great achievement. I'm looking forward to seeing what goes on with that, but you have to also respect the other guys.”
The other guys, in Mukhtar’s words, are likely Austin FC midfielder Sebastian Driussi and Philadelphia Union midfielder Daniel Gazdag. Mukhtar ended the regular season with 23 goals and 11 assists, but Driussi (22g/7a) and Gazdag (22g/10a) were right on his tail to become the league’s top scorer.
“Driussi had an amazing season, Gazdag had an amazing season too with Philly,” Mukhtar said. “We all deserve it, so we have to keep the respect. But in the end, we are here to win. I care about that I win and that's my main focus, and my goal to win it.”
Mukhtar accounted for 44.2% of Nashville’s goals (23 of 52) in 2022, which is the highest percentage in MLS this season. The Designated Player also scored 21 goals in the Coyotes’ final 22 games, overcoming a slow start, and is involved in over half the regular-season goals (70 of 131) in Nashville SC history.
Whatever stat is used, there’s no denying Mukhtar’s prowess since he arrived in MLS after a half-decade at Danish club Brøndby.
“In general, I think I stayed healthy the whole season. That helped me a lot,” Mukhtar explained. “The understanding between me and my teammates is amazing and getting better and better. I'm at the right place right now and that's very important. I've learned that throughout my career with ups and downs. Now I can really enjoy the soccer I want to play."
For Mukhtar, focus now shifts to the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs and a Round One matchup at the LA Galaxy on Saturday (3 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, MLSsoccer.com & App). They’re the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed and are visiting the No. 4 seed, a team they lost against and tied during the regular season.
“They dominated us, I would say, the two games we played against them,” Mukhtar said. “But we have to prepare ourselves. We are able to beat them, so it will be a very interesting game.”
If Nashville take care of business, they’d get another road game in the Western Conference Semifinals on Oct. 20 at Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC, who they just beat 1-0 on Decision Day. Mukhtar likes their chances, as daunting as the task may look.
“This season I think we are strong enough in every part of the game,” Mukhtar said. “We can defend low in a lower block, we are very dangerous in transition. We can score goals, we showed that over the season. We just have to be sharp enough and use our chances. I really believe we can beat both LA teams.”