MVP pace: Hany Mukhtar matches Giovinco, Keane in MLS record books


"Hany's performance was world-class again. It's almost like we say that every week."

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith echoed everyone's sentiments after their 3-1 win over St. Louis CITY SC on Saturday night. Hany Mukhtar scored yet another hat trick, the fourth of his MLS career.

In the process, the German star became just the third player in league history to notch 50 goals and 30 assists in a three-year stretch, joining Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco (2015-17) and LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane (2012-14, 2013-15) in rarified air. They're all former Landon Donovan MLS MVPs, some of the best-ever players in league history.

"The consistency that he's given us and that he's produced through pretty much his time [in MLS]... he's been sensational," Smith said. "So adaptable as well, because it's not just the group and the style that we've played today again, because there's different shapes and different times. He's just found a way to be ultra-effective each week."

Through 18 games in 2023, Mukhtar has already tallied 13 goals and seven assists, leading the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race and sitting atop the combined goals and assists chart (20). At this point in 2022, a year in which he won both the Golden Boot and MVP awards, he was on nine goals and five assists.

It's hard to imagine a better season than Mukhtar's 2022 campaign, but halfway through the season, he's doing it.

"Beginning of the season, I said that I know and I believe that I can have a better year than last year," Mukhtar said. "A lot of people were laughing, but I still believe that. It's just halftime right now, so I have to continue to stay healthy and stay on top of my game."

As has been the case since Nashville entered MLS three-and-a-half seasons ago, when Mukhtar does well, the team does well.

He has 11 goals and four assists in his last 10 games. Nashville are on a 10-match unbeaten run (7W-0L-3D), the longest in club history. They're just five points behind FC Cincinnati, firmly in the Supporters' Shield race and full of belief they can challenge for an MLS Cup in 2023. And perhaps more than any other team in MLS, their success is tied to one player, pending a possible Designated Player No. 9 arriving during the Secondary Transfer Window.

"I was the first DP for Nashville SC. It comes with expectations," Mukhtar said. "I take that as an honor. I know how to handle it. In the end, I have to perform. I know that I am very valuable for this team. My teammates help me. All the goals I scored today, it's the help for my teammates. We have to keep pushing. We have to not be satisfied."